Police Offer To ‘Test’ Meth For Zika Virus Was Meant To ‘Raise Awareness’

Drugs being prepared by a figure wearing gloves.
Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

A police department in Louisiana, just before the new year, posted an offer on its Facebook page to “test” area residents’ crystal meth for the Zika virus. This was apparently a stunt that the department now says was meant to “raise awareness of drug abuse.”

In a Facebook post dated December 29, the Harahan Police Department issued a “WARNING.”

“If you have recently purchased meth in any area of Louisiana it may be contaminated with the Zika Virus,” says the post, attributed to Officer Moody. “Please bring all of it to your local Police Department and they will test it for free. If you’re not comfortable coming to us, an officer will be glad to come to you and test your Meth in the privacy of your home. Please spread the word! We’re available 24/7/365. Be Safe!”

But the overture, according to UPI, wasn’t a legitimate offer, but rather a “stunt to raise awareness of drug abuse.” It’s not clear if the offer was purely a ruse to encourage residents to show up with their drugs to face arrest — or if anyone was actually arrested as a result of it. But such gimmicks have been used in the past by other departments for just that reason.

Per UPI, in 2016, a Texas police department told residents that meth and heroin had been contaminated with the Ebola virus, and one woman was arrested for drug possession shortly thereafter. However, a news report at the time, per NBC affiliate KXAN, disputed that the arrest was a direct result of the Facebook post.

The mayor of Harahan, Tina Miceli, told the New Orleans Advocate that she was concerned about the post.

“I am concerned about the information that is disseminated to the community and our surrounding communities, and how they are getting their information,” the mayor said. “I don’t want residents afraid without having information.”

There are no recorded instances of crystal meth being infected with the Zika virus — and the last time that there was a major Zika scare in the United States was in 2015.

Police-led ruses have also led to arrests for things other than drugs. Per MTV, in 2007, a sheriff in Fargo, North Dakota, sent invitations to a group of men with outstanding arrest warrants or overdue child support payments to a bogus “meet-and-greet” with rock star Ozzy Osbourne. This false meet and greet was to take place prior to his concert in the area. However, when the invitees showed up for the “party,” they were promptly arrested. This led to an outraged statement by Ozzy himself.

“Sheriff Laney went out of his way to tarnish my reputation by implying that I somehow attract a criminal element, which is certainly not true,” Osbourne said in the 2007 statement. “My audiences are good, hard-working people who have been hugely supportive of my music for nearly four decades… It’s obvious to me that this sheriff has an agenda and is just trying to make a name for himself on my back.”