Pubdate: Sun, 05 Jan 2003
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2003 The Decatur Daily
Author: Scott Parrott, Daily Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The men and women sit and pick their skin.

Morgan County sheriff's investigators Terry Kelly and Don Chamberlain start 
the interviews with one question.

"How much meth have you done?"

The detectives investigate mostly theft and burglaries, not drugs. But more 
and more, the suspects they arrest are abusers of the illegal stimulant 

"It's all they do. They don't work. They do the drugs, then some kind of 
crime to support the habit," Chamberlain said.

Meth - also known as crank, ice or chalk - grew in use during recent years 
because of its cheap price, lengthy high and accessibility, said Sgt. 
George Rutherford of the county Drug Task Force. And like any narcotic, the 
drug produces more crime.

But investigators believe meth contributed to the majority of county crime 
in 2002.

"Where it used to be crack and cocaine, we're seeing this now," Kelly said.

Kelly and Chamberlain made arrests in at least 50 felony cases last year. 
Forty-three involved meth.

Law enforcement authorities are targeting meth makers and users in a 
continuous effort to rid the county of the narcotic and accompanying crime. 
The task force shut down several labs this year.

The task force mainly targets meth producers through undercover operations 
and raids. Detectives, meanwhile, often encounter meth users while 
investigating other crimes.

"I can't think of a single burglar or thief I've busted this year that was 
not using methamphetamine," Kelly said.

The meth problem is not isolated to Morgan County.

Alabama ranked third in the Southeast in the number of meth labs discovered 
by authorities between 1999 and 2001, according to the National Drug 
Intelligence Center, an office of the U.S. Department of Justice.

'They get hooked'

"They get hooked on this crap and they have to support the habit," said 
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Wells.

His department in Northeast Alabama was involved in 83 meth cases in 2002, 
one of the highest rates in Alabama.

Wells said the county contains a number of meth labs comparable with other 
counties'. The large arrest tally, he said, comes from the department's 
efforts to crack down.

As in Morgan County, deputies find labs many times while investigating 
other crimes.

"The deputies respond to a domestic violence call. Once they smell that 
odor and get their foot in the door, they're not leaving," he said.

Meth labs in rural areas are usually hidden in the woods, but authorities 
say they are finding more labs made from camp stoves and bottles in houses, 
hotel rooms, campers and cars.

The chemicals used to make the drug can cause explosions when cooked. 
Vapors create the same effect as secondhand smoke.

The drug initially makes a user feel powerful, confident and alert. Side 
effects can include days without sleep and weight loss. Through time, the 
drug twists the brain chemistry and nerve endings die from the lack of 
oxygen, creating sensations like bugs crawling under the skin - the effects 
that Morgan County investigators see in suspects again and again.

"Nothing else matters," Chamberlain said. "They sell their souls."
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