Pubdate: Tue, 12 Feb 2002
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Author: Kevin Murphy
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Madison - The state will train 60 officers in regional task forces to clean 
up and deal with threats from methamphetamine labs throughout Wisconsin, 
the state Justice Department announced Monday.

Forty officers will be trained and 20 will be recertified over the next two 
months as part of the $200,000 program to assist state agents in responding 
to clandestine meth labs operating in places such as garages and hotel 
rooms, said Randy Romanski, a Justice Department spokesman.

The state will pay for training and will reimburse local departments for 
overtime costs incurred as part of the program, he said.

The state Department of Narcotics Enforcement will remain the lead agency 
in responding to reports of meth labs, but having additional trained local 
personnel will enable a quick, coordinated response to labs, where volatile 
mixes of chemicals often pose health and environmental threats.

"These are highly explosive situations, which are very dangerous for law 
enforcement who encounter them and for neighbors in the vicinity," Romanski 
said. "So it's key for them to be able to go in, seize the lab and remove 
any materials for testing, and determine if a hazardous waste cleanup crew 
needs to be called in."

Local, state and federal officials have taken numerous steps in recent 
years aimed at curbing trafficking and use of methamphetamine, which has 
spread primarily along Wisconsin's western borders. Still, the state has 
encountered a growing number of meth labs.

State agents seized 54 meth labs in Wisconsin last year, up from 38 the 
previous year. So far this year, 27 labs have been raided. The problem is 
greater in neighboring states, including Minnesota, where 232 labs were 
seized in 2001, and in Iowa, where 768 labs were seized.

"Despite the success of our law enforcement agencies in battling meth, we 
must continue our coordinated attack against this menace," Attorney General 
Jim Doyle said in a statement. "The law enforcement officials, 
firefighters, emergency medical personnel and educators in this room 
represent a strong front to keep our kids and communities safe from this drug."

Dunn County has one drug investigator certified for meth lab responses and 
could have up to two more certified by this spring as part of the new 
effort, Sheriff Dennis Smith said.

Smith said he is pleased the state is doing more to combat meth production 
but he does not want his agents to respond to calls all over west-central 

"As long as they are picking up the expense, it should help us in the long 
run by cutting down on the methamphetamines that are being manufactured," 
he said. "But if it gets to be too much, our people will be too tired and 
won't be able to do our work. That's something I'll have to monitor."

Participation in the meth lab response task force will remain voluntary, 
said the Justice Department's Romanski, and the police agency closest to a 
suspected lab would be called in first. Only if it were determined that 
additional help was need would agencies farther away be asked to assist, he 

Task forces will be established in each of the Department of Narcotics 
Enforcement regions in the state: Appleton, Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee, 
Prairie du Chien and Wausau.

Funding for the task force initiative has been arranged by shifting funds 
from an existing federal grant.

Methamphetamine is a powerful synthetic stimulant that is sold in pill 
form, capsules, powder and chunks. It can be smoked, snorted, injected 
intravenously or ingested orally.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager