Pubdate: Fri, 25 Oct 2002
Source: Herald Chronicle, The (TN)
Copyright: The Herald Chronicle 2002
Contact: 906 Dinah Shore Blvd Winchester, TN 37398
Author: Wayne Thomas
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Federal arrests are down but illegal methamphetamines drug lab seizures are 
at an all time high for parts of southern middle Tennessee, according to 
Congressman Zach Wamp.

The Southeast Tennessee Methamphetamines Drug Task Force, which includes 
Franklin, Grundy and Coffee Counties, closed 422 meth lab operations this 
fiscal year, up from 317 seized the year before.

Task force records show only 250 persons were arrested for the criminal 
trade, down from a record number of 519 arrests made in 2001.

Officials say a massive round up by the task force last year netted 120 
arrest is one explanation for the difference.

Franklin County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Tim Fuller noted that the 
arrest Wamp is talking about were those made by federal authorities. 
"Locally, we are continuing to make arrests," Fuller said. "Many of our 
cases are taken straight to the Franklin County Grand Jury and they are 
then arrested."

Fuller stated that it seems that local investigators are seeing more labs 
in the area.

U.S. Attorney Paul Laymon says federal officers are concentrating on 
Mexican meth production that is being funneled through Georgia, taking away 
from previous arrests made in the area.

But DEA Agent Ben Scott says the task force has bridged the gap among 
local, state and federal officers on combating the meth threat. Scott says 
many local departments are now better trained to deal with the 
often-homegrown methamphetamine trade.

Congressman Wamp has been instrumental in securing federal funding for the 
task force for the fourth straight year. He says a number of agencies 
workings together have been trying to put a dent in the meth production.

Fuller, along with Franklin County Sheriff's Investigator Mike Bell was 
complimentary of Wamp in his efforts to obtain funding for the fight 
against the illegal labs.

"Mr. Wamp has been right there with us in trying to get extra funding that 
has helped pay for overtime that we accumulate in cleaning up these 
dangerous labs," Fuller said.

Bell, who is one of only a handful of officers in Franklin County certified 
to handle the disposal of the dangerous chemicals, added that it takes a 
lot of time to contain the chemicals where the hazardous material unit from 
the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency can come and remove the chemicals.

According to Bell, over 100 of the illegal labs were seized since the first 
of February in the 12th Judicial District, which is made up of Franklin, 
Grundy, Marion and Sequatchie Counties.
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