In Iowa’s Northern District, which includes Sioux City and northwest Iowa, 22% of the defendants prosecuted 10 years ago by the U.S. Attorney’s Office were charged with gun and violent crimes, Deegan said. That number rose to 37% in 2018 and was close to 50% in fiscal 2020, which ended September 30. Similar trends can be seen across the country, Deegan said, although it is difficult to track the impact that focus on violence has had on crime numbers.
“I believe, by and large, that this has been an effective strategy in reducing violent crime across the country,” he said.
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Drug and gun crimes are often linked, Deegan said, and meth remains the drug of choice.
“Meth is still a big problem in Iowa and across the country,” he said.
Although meth is implicated in most of the drug crimes prosecuted by his office, more and more cases with opioids – heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain medication – are being observed. The number of opioid-related cases has risen to nearly 24% of all drug-related crime in the district, compared to 4% not long ago. Far more deadly, opioids are on the east side of Iowa, but their presence has continued to spread to the west side of the state, Deegan said.
The U.S. Attorney’s priorities will continue through 2021, Deegan said, but it’s uncertain where the focus might be in the future. Joe Biden’s November defeat to President Donald Trump sets up a new administration. It remains to be seen what priorities the Biden government will set. Deegan, who was appointed in 2017 and has been federal prosecutor since 1998, has seen administrative changes before.