BELLEVUE, Wis. (WFRV) – When the head of the Brown County Drug Task Force tells you it’s a problem that keeps him up at night, you take notice.

The reason I was even calling Lt. Matthew Ronk of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office was because I noticed a posting on a law enforcement Facebook page. It noted the recent seizure of at a crude, but large cooking operation in Langlade County.

The people were cooking crystal meth which is an illegal stimulant that as a reporter I remember exploded onto the scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

At that time I was covering rural Missouri and can recall repeated fire and explosion calls that turned out to be people trying to make the drug themselves.

Turns out meth is making a comeback. And only now am I aware of what local narcotics officers were facing out there.

“Meth is the new marijuana,” Lt Ronk said simply. “It’s the cool thing, everybody’s doing it.”

But this is not meth that is cooked up by a neighbor or out in the woods or on a remote property. Now it is meth that is made in sophisticated labs and mostly trafficked by powerful cartels that are notorious for violence.

It was then that I realized it was more important for me and viewers to listen. This is the recent conversation I had with Lt. Ronk at the Brown County Sheriff’s Office in Bellevue.

LT. RONK: Everyone in jail usually has a drug nexus if you look at the daily lock-up. there are always retail thefts and a lot of those are drug-related and most related to methamphetamine because that’s our most popular drug by far.

McCORMACK: Lt. I’m not talking about national trends. I’m talking Brown County you’re saying that’s happening in Brown County?

LT. RONK: Correct. In the last few years.

The availability has exploded. In 2007 we never busted for meth. It was like what is that if we did come across it. We had kits to test for it that we never used. We didn’t see it ever. Now we see it every day. I can’t underscore how prevalent it is and what a scourge it is to our community. Even for Child Protective Services. When they take kids away from home when we do a seizure or search warrant, and more and more kids are testing positive. And that’s disheartening. I can’t fix that problem other than arrest the parents and that does the kid no justice but that’s what I do.

Brown County Sheriff’s Office

McCORMACK: The kids have the meth in their systems?

LT. RONK: It’s not uncommon. I don’t know if it’s that they’re smoking a lot around them or maybe they ate it. You can eat meth. That’s one way. It’s a concerning trend and anecdotally I see more kids on search warrants than I did ten years ago.

McCORMACK: You have 18 members of the task force is that enough? Because I know you’re doing more than busting for crystal meth.

LT RONK: It’s sufficient. But if our only job was to enforce methamphetamine laws, that would be a full-time job for 18 members.