Gun and opioid cases grow in Iowa’s Northern District

Gun and opioid cases grow in Iowa's Northern District

Federal firearms prosecutions have continued to increase this year — not necessarily due to any spike in gun violence but rather because of the high priority of pursuing crimes of violence.

Federal firearms prosecutions show a steady increase over the years, more than doubling since 2016. That year, 90 people were charged; 103 in 2017; 166 in 2018; and 189 this year, according to data from the office.

Peter Deegan Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, said that although opioid cases also continued to rise, the overall number drug offenses charged this year has decreased.

Yet that drop could be deceiving, as Deegan doesn’t think drug crimes are actually on the decline. The decrease in overall cases reflects a “refinement” in focusing on the most serious drug offenses — methamphetamine and opioids — and targeting large-scale meth traffickers.

While the nation’s opioid crisis has overshadowed meth offenses, he said, meth violations remain prevalent as the drug’s purity has grown more potent and the price has come down.

Those charged with federal drug offenses were 146 in 2016; 165 in 2017; 149 in 2018; and 114 this year. While the total of all drug cases fluctuated, the proportion of cases involving opioids grew sharply — from 6 percent in 2017 to 16 percent in 2018 and 25 percent this year.

For all crimes, the Northern District charged 388 defendants in 2016, 425 in 2017, 437 in 2018 and 428 in 2019.

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