San Diego

Deaths and Arrests for Meth Increasing Across San Diego County

A closer look at law enforcement activity related to methamphetamine and the communities the illicit drug has impacted the most.

Meth arrests and deaths have increased over recent years in San Diego County. 

NBC 7 Investigates submitted requests for public records to law enforcement agencies throughout San Diego County to find which cities had the most deaths from meth-related causes and which communities saw the largest increase in arrests and citations. 

NBC 7 analyzed death records from the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office from 1997 through 2018. 

During those 21 years, 2,707 people died from meth-related causes. The City of San Diego had the highest number of deaths with 1,027. The City of La Mesa had the second highest with 215, followed by Oceanside, Chula Vista, and Escondido. 

And while the City of San Diego had the highest number of meth-related fatalities, La Mesa saw the highest frequency of deaths.

In that city, meth was determined to be a contributing factor in the deaths of nearly 4 out of every 1,000 people.

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The second highest frequency in per capita deaths occurred in the City of El Cajon where one out of 1,000 people died from a meth-related cause. 

Chula Vista had the lowest death rate, followed by the City of San Diego. 

And while the number of meth-related deaths has spiked throughout San Diego County, so too have the numbers of arrests and citations for possession and distribution of meth. 


In the City of San Diego, arrests and citations increased by more than 1,100 in just four years. In 2015, there were 2,309 arrests and citations citywide. In 2018 that number jumped to 3,406. 

According to data analyzed by NBC 7, East Village saw the highest number of arrests and citations during that four-year span, from 116 arrests and citations in 2015 to 416 in 2018. The second largest jump occurred in the Midway District. In 2015, there were only 65 arrests and citations handed out for possession and distribution of meth. In 2018, those arrests nearly quadrupled to 249. 

But an increase in arrests and citations increased throughout the county as well. 


The second highest number of arrests and citations in San Diego County, from January 2015 through February of 2019 took place in the City of Vista. The North County municipality recorded nearly 1,800 arrests and citations for meth-related offenses. The community that had the third highest amount of meth-related arrests and citations, according to numbers provided by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, is the Lakeside, followed by San Marcos, and the Rancho Santa Fe. 

A representative from the Cities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Chula Vista told NBC 7 Investigates they do not track the types of drugs arrests are connected with, so those cities are not included in the maps and analysis above.

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