Several police departments have used the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak to create joke social media warnings in an attempt to make drug arrests.
The Tavares Police Department in Florida and the Merrill Police Department in Wisconsin are among several that have posted on social media offering to test drugs and methamphetamine for coronavirus.
“If you have recently purchased Meth, it may be contaminated” with coronavirus, the Merrill Police Department wrote on Facebook this week. “If you’re not comfortable going into an office setting, please request any officer and they’ll test your Meth in the privacy of your home. Please spread the word! We are here for you!”
“Bring it by our station and we will test your batch within minutes!” the Tavares Police Department wrote on Facebook.
In a now-deleted Facebook post, the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office in Kansas asked people to bring their meth to the station to have it tested. “Please take it to the sheriff’s office or police department and they will test it for free,” it said. “If you’re not comfortable going into an office, please contact any officer and they’ll test your meth in the privacy of your home. Please spread the word!”
In the past, police departments have posted similar messages on Facebook offering to “test” meth or other drugs.
But some Facebook users criticized the departments for what they claimed was insensitivity.
“While other departments are creating substance use outreach programs, you’re doing this. Substance use disorder is a public health crisis. Making a mockery of it is putting you further away from a solution. This is disgusting,” one person wrote. The department responded, noting that it is a “law enforcement agency, not a recovery service” and addresses “crime and criminals.” Most of the comments on the pages were humorous.
Police in Merrill wrote an updated post to acknowledge that it received critical comments. The department said that similar ploys have worked in the past.
“Just to give you some history, we have actually experienced people report their illegal drugs being stolen, being ripped off in a drug deal, being sold a look-a-like illegal substance, etc.,” the department wrote. “So this attempt, although a long shot, still had some possibility behind it.”
It added, “It is our hope that every drug arrest both works to hold offenders accountable for their deeds and provides them with a path toward treatment options.”
The Tavares Police Department also updated its post, saying that “we are aware that our post has generated a lot of concerns and we want to clarify that there is no indication illegal drugs can have coronavirus in them.”
“Drug abuse has a high personal cost to oneself and family with drug dependence. We apologize for any confusion our post may have caused,” it added.
So far, more than 70 cases of COVID-19, the disease the new coronavirus causes, have been confirmed in the United States as of Sunday. One death was reported on Saturday in Washington state, while the same state reported two new cases on Sunday, and Rhode Island reported its first case.