Minger: There is crime in Woodford County

Nick Vlahos

Don't be fooled by Woodford County's rural nature. It has its share of crime, although sometimes its residents can be oblivious to it.

Like one of its most prominent residents once was.

"I lived a little bit of a sheltered life," State's Attorney Greg Minger said about the county in which he resided until he left for college. "There's a lot more that goes on here than I ever imagined."

Wednesday marks Minger's first year in office. The most surprising part of that year for him, from a criminal standpoint, is the number of drug cases he's had to handle.

Major drug-dealing cases in the county aren't necessarily plentiful, Minger said. What's more common are cases that involve young people who possess drug paraphernalia. That includes crack pipes and bowls used for smoking marijuana.

Keeping up with new types of drugs also is a challenge for the state's attorney's office. Synthetic marijuana, known by brand names such as K2 or Spice, became illegal statewide Jan. 1. It mimics marijuana's effects. Synthetic cocaine, commonly known as bath salts, was declared illegal last year.

"The criminals in some of these drug cases are getting smarter and smarter," Minger said. "All they have to do is change some chemicals, and it's no longer listed in the (Illinois) Controlled Substances Act.

"The challenge is for the legislature and for prosecutors and law enforcement to stay on top of all that."

New drugs and old ones - including alcohol - often are the source of other crimes in the county, according to Minger.

"A lot of domestic issues stem from alcohol abuse or drug use," he said. "Thefts can be drug related. Heroin is starting to make a little bit of a push. It's always going to be a challenge.

"People still believe this is a very safe area, and for the most part, it is. But crime does happen. All sorts of crimes have happened since I've been here, and looking back at past files, it's always been there."