Either drug trafficking is on the rise in Missouri or the Highway Patrol is getting better at catching drug traffickers.

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana has been seized so far this year, up 40 percent from last year. More than 600 pounds of cocaine has been seized, up significantly from 162 pounds for the first quarter of 2008.

Methamphetamine? January through March of last year saw one tenth of a pound — this year’s seizure is already up to 16 pounds.

Lt. John Hotz says troopers are working to stay ahead of the traffickers, learning new techniques used to hide and haul drugs.

The Patrol reports three major highways in Missouri make it a hot spot for traffickers to get their product to larger metro cities like Minneapolis, Chicago and Cleveland. Major busts are happening on Interstates 35, 44 and 55.

The number of people busted hasn’t seen as significant of an increase… 62 people this year compared to 55 last year. Hotz says there have been a couple of commercial vehicles hauling larger amounts drugs.

Jessica Machetta reports [Download/listen MP3]