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Drugs to blame as La Crosse County surpasses 1,000 felonies



Last year at this time it was 800 and
two years ago it wasn’t 800 until T-giving

The La Crosse County courts recorded a rare local milestone last week.

When Jillian Smith was charged with bringing heroin into the county jail, hers was the 1,000th felony case in the county for 2017.

To compare, at this time in 2016, there were 800 felonies in the county. In 2015, it took until Thanksgiving to get to 800 felonies.

Now, however, La Crosse County’s courts are seeing 100 felonies a month with drug and property crimes leading the trend.

La Crosse County district attorney Tim Gruenke said increased law enforcement has helped push the arrest numbers up.

And, while the 1,000 felonies so far is unusually high for the county, online records show at least 1,500 felonies occured in 1995 – a year that saw a lot of gang-related crime in the area.

Gruenke blames the high number now an increasing drug trade in the area, especially in heroin and meth. Those crimes have increased and that drug activity snowballs into other crimes.

“There’s also some case that would go along with that, such as property crimes for people to get money for their habit or bond violations, which, if you’re on a felony bond, then any bail jumping becomes a felony,” Gruenke said.

Gruenke saw the high felony total creeping up months ago.

“So, it wasn’t an all-of-the-sudden, one-time thing,” Gruenke said. “It’s a trend that’s been happening over a period of time.”

La Crosse isn’t an outlier in the area. Eau Claire County already surpassed 1,000 felonies two months ago.

Gruenke added that the felony count does not reflect any spike in violent crimes.

“For example, a rash of homicides or even shootings or even armed robberies, none of those numbers are up drastically,” Gruenke said. “In terms of what people consider to be safe or unsafe, it’s not like those violent crimes are up drastically.”



A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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