(CNN) – Some police departments are putting out fake warnings that illicit drugs could be contaminated with coronavirus in an effort to make drug arrests.
The Atlantic Beach and Tavares police department in Florida and the Merrill Police Department in Wisconsin are among those that have taken to social media offering to test methamphetamine and other drugs.
“Please bring the drugs to the police department and we will test them for free,” Atlantic Beach police posted on its Facebook page on Friday. “If you’re not comfortable coming to the police department, we will send an officer to your house and they’ll test your illegal drugs in the privacy of your home! Please spread the word!”
“Bring it by our station and we will test your batch within minutes!” Tavares Police Department said.
“If you have recently purchased Meth, it may be contaminated,” with coronavirus, Merrill Police Department said on Facebook. “If you’re not comfortable going into an office setting, please request any officer and they’ll test your Meth in the privacy of your home. Please spread the word! We are here for you!”
At least 2,976 people have died from coronavirus globally. There are now 71 confirmed and presumptive positive cases of the virus in the United States, including one fatality.
Some people criticized the department's posts online.
"I would rather not see police departments making 'jokes' like this online or posting false information about a pandemic that is already being treated cavalierly by the executive branch," Jessica Thill commented on Merrill Police Department's post.
"This would be funnier if addiction (often a maladaptive coping skill formed as a result of trauma experienced in the form of abuse, neglect, abandonment, etc. during vital development stages of the brain during a human being's life) wasn't a disease that devastates individuals, their families, and their communities," another commenter, Karriann Elise, said.
The post from Merrill police was updated to acknowledge the critical comments it received. But, the department added, similar ploys have worked before and are done with the intention of keeping people safe.
"Just to give you some history, we have actually experienced people report their illegal drugs being stolen, being ripped off in a drug deal, being sold a look-a-like illegal substance, etc.," the department said. "So this attempt, although a long shot, still had some possibility behind it."
"It is our hope that every drug arrest both works to hold offenders accountable for their deeds and provides them with a path toward treatment options."
Police departments using social media to push fake drug campaigns have caused a stir before. In July, a Tennessee police department warned against flushing drugs down toilets and sinks because it could create meth gators. The post was not meant to be taken seriously, the department said.
“Let us be perfectly clear: the meth gator was a humorous illustration used to highlight the dangers of flushing drugs and other substances down your toilet,” the Loretto Police Department wrote on Facebook.