Troopers say Iowa no longer a drive through in drug trade, it’s a hub

DES MOINES — State Patrol Troopers who look for illegal drugs on the interstates that crisscross Iowa say our state is no longer just a drive through area on the way to larger cities.

Captain Nathan Andrews says the amount of drugs they’ve seen indicate the drugs are now being stored here for distribution. “Hundreds of pounds of meth, coke, fentanyl coming to Des Moines to  be harbored in Des Moines,” Andrews says. “So it’s becoming what we always call like a hub city,” he says.

He says they have never seen that before in Des Moines and Iowa in general. “Some suspicions on that might be the borders are pretty porous right now. So they’re bringing in whatever they can get in while they can before that gets locked down or something changes down there, and it’s got to go somewhere,” he says.  “So let’s get it in the United States, let’s harbor it up everywhere we can harbor wherever we have organization that can handle it. That could be one reason.” He says the pandemic saw enforcement slowed down and that freed up a lot of movement for criminals, which could be another reason the drugs are being stored in Iowa.

Trooper Ryan Zenor works with the Patrol’s drug dogs and says they routinely see hundreds of pounds of drugs in one stop. “Twenty years ago, and we’re seeing this to walk up, get probable cause and search a car and find 40 to 50 kilos of methamphetamine, cocaine and suitcases in a trunk was unheard of. We would find compartments electronic compartment, and you may find one or two pounds. And that was an absolute huge seizure back in the day,” Zenor says.

He says they track the quantity and dollar value of the drugs they seize on the interstates. “Just in 2022 we had 665 pounds of marijuana, $1.5 million. Cocaine 442 pounds, $15.5 million street value. Methamphetamine 241 pounds, $6.3 million street value,” Zenor says.

He says the really alarming number is the seizure of 11-and-a-half pounds of fentanyl. Zenor says that doesn’t seem like a lot when you look at the other drug amounts, but it’s more dangerous. Just a little dangerous scuff is lethal to us,” he says.

He says federal officials did some figuring on the impact after a big fentanyl seizure over in Omaha last year.  “They did some studies on if five pounds of fentanyl was airborne, it would take out the population of Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota in one shot. That’s how lethal it is. If you could actually get fentanyl airborne, it would take out all populations of Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota,” Zenor says.

The two say they continue to see large amounts of drugs coming across the state this year. The Troopers made their presentation ruing the recent meeting of the state Transportation Commission.