Heading for the County Courthouse today to cover a regular session of Circuit Court for The Floyd Press. Seems like I spend more and more time sitting on the hard benches in the courtroom.

Court used to be an occasional thing in Floyd County. A circuit judge came through once a month to hear cases and general district court met every other week.

Not now. Circuit Court meets at least twice a month, maybe more. We’ve had more jury trials in the last year than in the five previous years.  General District Court meets every Thursday. Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court every Friday.

The docket today is long: Several probation violations along with crimes ranging from breaking and entering to computer fraud and theft. Many will involve drugs. At least two defendants will be in shackles because they were arrested as fugitives after they failed to appear for earlier hearing. An interpreter will be on hand for Mexican defendants who can’t — or won’t — speak English.

One only has to read the paper to know crime is up in Floyd County and elsewhere. Court stories dominate the front pages of The Floyd Press at least twice a month.

For longtime residents who used to leave their homes unlocked and the keys in their cars, the new reality is Floyd is troubling but not unexpected in a county that is growing in population and diversity.

In Galax, city officials want federal help in fighting what they call "an epidemic" in crystal meth, the drug of choice for young adults now and the primary cash product for Mexican gangs operating in the region. Drug use often spawns crime as users steal to get money to support their habits.

Many of the drug cases that come before the court in Floyd County involve meth. It’s easy (but dangerous) to make and labs exist in this county and elsewhere. You can spot a longtime meth user by their rotted-out teeth and jaundiced skin that comes from failing kidneys and other vital organs.

But other drugs figure into the mix, including cocaine, crack and marijuana. Joshua Hairston, the teen aged drug dealer from Henry County who found a fertile market in Floyd, testified in a murder trial here that he liked to get high on "that good Floyd County weed" while peddling crack and cocaine to his customers.  A jury two-weeks ago found him guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of one of his customers in Floyd County last year.

Law enforcement officers who work with the New River Valley Drug Task Force say there is a proven link between drug use and crime and I see that link played out in the Floyd County courts.  Yada Bean, the former high school honor student, Eagle Scout and rescue squad volunteer, got mixed up with drugs and broke into a vet’s office to steal some. He also stole computers in Radford to sell for money for drugs. He’s in jail now after violating his probation after he tested positive for drug use.

Maybe I need to buy one of those Virginia Tech stadium pillows. It might help during the increasing number of long days on those hard Floyd County Courtroom benches.