Utica getting worldwide attention due to bath salts epidemic

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The city of Utica's bath salts problem is drawing wordwide attention as the battle intensifies on city streets.

The news program "Dateline Australia" is coming to Utica July 21 to interview city police about the bath salts battle. NHK, Japan's public broadcasting organization, has also reached out to UPD for an interview. The city police chief has some ideas as to why the use of the synthetic drug in the city is drawing international attention.

"We are trying to draw attention to the problem so I think we were more willing to put out our bath salt problems to the public. As they arose, we did press releases on them whereas some entities didn't," says Chief Mark Williams.

Utica police officers will have no shortage of true horror stories for interested media agencies. Around 12:30 am Friday, July 13, they encountered a naked man in the middle of Genesee Street, near Scott Street. Police say 54-year-old Robert Kleps was waving a tree branch, telling officers that they'd have to kill him to stop him. Officers deployed a taser gun, but they say Kleps pulled the probes out of his chest and continued walking. It took two officers to finally subdue Kleps. They charged him with criminal mischef, menacing and resisting arrest. He told them he was using bath salts.

Chief Williams says in order to stay ahead of the learning curve, officers are constantly attending seminars on bath salt use and how to handle people on the synthetic drug. Williams says the DEA, or Drug Enforcement Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, is holding one such forum in August at the police academy at MVCC in Utica.

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