UNION COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Union County is seeing an increase in crimes due to fentanyl.

The sheriff said fentanyl is a problem throughout the county and country.

Sheriff Jeff Bailey said the fentanyl problem has increased the number of property crimes in the area.

“This is a serious drug and it’s taken the lives of a lot of people,” said Sheriff Jeff Bailey.

“It’s very dangerous, a very small amount can actually cause an overdose,” Jessica Owens.

Sheriff Bailey said they are finding a lot of fentanyl pills and other drugs laced with it.

“We’re having a lot of overdoses, young people overdosing, middle-aged people overdosing,” he said.

He said the fentanyl problem is directly related to the increase in property crimes. He said there’s been an increase of around 14% compared to last year.

“Property crimes is up and it’s basically because they’re using the drugs, and the withdrawals are so bad from this drug that they have to have it,” said Sheriff Bailey. “When they get in that situation, they’re going to steal from you.”

“When the opioids start coming out of their system, they feel very sick,” said Jessica Owens with The Phoenix Center, which specializes in addition prevention and treatment. “So, it’s GI symptoms, start getting chills, almost like really bad flu symptoms. Then, their pain tolerance has changed too.”

Jessica Owens is chief operating officer at the center and said addiction is a disease which changes the way our brain operates.

“Here at the Phoenix Center, about a third of our clients that come through the door, have some type of an opioid use disorder,” she said.

Sheriff Bailey said they’re helping fight this battle by making more traffic stops.

“We do fairly well with, you know, getting fentanyl off the streets but along with other drugs. It’s not just fentanyl, but that is the majority of what we see,” he said.

He said they do have to have a reason to pull you over and search your car.

“In order to search, we have to have probable cause. We’ve got to have something in plain view that we see or odor we smell,” said the Sheriff.

He said they arrest users, but they’re main goal is go to after distributors. Sheriff Bailey said right now, there is not enough penalty for people selling fentanyl and wants to see legislatures help pass more laws.

Owens said at the center they give Narcan out to people, help teach them how to use it and give away fentanyl test strips.

For more resources and what programs the Phoenix Center provides, click here.