Pubdate: Sat, 14 Aug 2004
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Tona Kunz
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Fox Valley law enforcement officers rarely arrest methamphetamine users, 
and even less frequently do they bust meth labs.


"I am sure it is coming," said McHenry County Coroner Marlene Lantz. "It 
will be here."

Coroners in the suburbs like Lantz already have seen a few deaths from the 
synthetic drug often used as a cheap substitute for cocaine or ecstasy.

Officials fear more deaths, whether from the addiction or the violence it 
breeds, could be on the way. They also fear the crime, identity theft and 
mail fraud that often follow the drug trail.

"This is the fastest-growing drug in the United States right now," said 
Mark Warpress, special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency in Chicago.

According to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 12.4 million 
Americans, or 5.2 percent of the population, reported using meth.

"It has totally devastated Missouri," Warpress said. "It has totally 
devastated Iowa. It has totally devastated central and southern Illinois. 
And now, we are seeing it in northern Illinois."

In preparation for a scourge officials hope won't happen, but might, DEA 
agents and narcotics task force members have been giving seminars to area 
law enforcement officers to teach them how to spot meth users and meth 
labs, which involve household products easily overlooked.

The Aurora Youth Department, members of the Kane County drug court task 
force and area Red Ribbon groups have started formulating community 
pamphlets on the dangers of the drug in case use spreads.

Officials who say the western suburbs are a microcosm of middle America are 
taking a look at their neighbors struggling with meth use and bracing for 
the worst.

"Whatever trend you see there, we get," said McHenry County Sheriff's Sgt. 
Greg Leitza.

As recently as 2002, nine Midwest states housed nearly half of all meth 
labs reported seized by in the United States by law enforcement officials. 
Illinois ranked sixth for labs behind Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and 
Tennessee, according to the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

The number of labs could be even higher. Police agencies aren't required to 
submit meth arrests or laboratory seizures to a single organization, making 
it difficult to get a handle on the extent of the problem.

Many police departments and the state's annual law enforcement report don't 
differentiate methamphetamine from other controlled substances in arrest 

Still, according to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, 
arrests by multi-jurisdictional drug units for methamphetamine have jumped 
from zero in 1998 to 1,400 in 2003. While the arrest numbers have risen the 
geography also has shifted.

Between 1998 and 2002, submittals of methamphetamine to state drug labs for 
testing by police has risen 4.3 percent to a total of 6.1 percent of test 
submittals in urban counties and 31.6 percent to a total of 43.4 percent of 
submittals in rural counties, according to the justice authority.

Some of the increase may be attributed to an increase in labs and their 

In 2003, the Illinois State Police and DEA found two labs in Cook County, 
one in Kane and two in Will. That same year, those agencies seized a total 
of 1,099 labs, an increase of 114 percent since 2000.

Although, suburban arrests remain sporadic, recent high-profile crimes tied 
to the drug have shined a light on the emerging threat.

In July, McHenry County deputies arrested an Elgin man for running a meth 
lab out of a Crystal Lake Cemetery.

In April, Joe Foreman shattered his ex-wife's skull and kidnapped and 
killed his mother in-law in Batavia. During his confession, police said he 
told them he was on a meth binge.

That confession brought back memories of Mark Drezek of Island Lake who 
terrorized a Long Grove couple for 10 days in 2001, burning down their 
Bartlett business and attempting to burn down their home. Prosecutors said 
regular meth use helped fuel his anger. He was sentenced in 2002 to 10 
years in prison.

"The violence associated with methampthetamine is absolutely incredible," 
Warpness said.

Snorted, injected or mixed in a liquid, meth tricks the brain and body into 
thinking that it has limitless stamina while actually draining the energy 
needed to maintain the body's vital organs and functions.

The bursts of energy and euphoria are followed by severe depression, brain 
damage and often violent paranoia, experts say.

According to a study by Alex Stalcup, a doctor with the New Leaf Treatment 
Center in California, 90 out of 100 people would become addicted to 
methamphetamine after ingesting it twice.

The drug has swept through rural areas of the country where poor and middle 
class residents in their 20s and 30s flock to it because it can be made 
anywhere and can be as cheap as $20 a gram.

However, with a price tag of $80 to $100 a gram in Chicago, according to 
the DEA, it has been slow to catch on in the Illinois suburbs where people 
can buy also chose between a gram of heroin for $100 to $200 or a gram of 
cocaine for $75 to $100.

Master Sgt. Jim Winters, a member of the North Central Narcotics Task 
Force, thinks the delay may be because of the Fox Valley's proximity to 
Chicago and all the other drug choices that come with it, including heroin, 
ecstasy and cocaine.

In the last two years, police have arrested meth users in Naperville, 
Aurora, Elgin and St. Charles. Substance abuse clinics in Elgin and Aurora 
report a handful of meth addicts each, something unheard of only a year ago.

Five of the teens in Kane County's drug court are there primarily for 
problems with methamphetamine.

And those teens say they know more people using, mostly affluent teens from 
the Tri-Cities and Aurora, as young as 14 years old.

"It is very different from what we have heard about meth," said Mike Moran, 
executive director of Breaking Free, a substance abuse clinic in Aurora and 
Naperville. "Here it is associated with clubs and raves."

Police still aren't sure exactly where users are getting their drugs though.

Thefts of anhydrous ammonia from DeKalb and McHenry County farms have 
picked up, particularly at the Farm Service Agency grounds near Marengo.

"They could be driving down from Rockford to steal the stuff, we don't 
know," Leitza said. "We do know they need that ingredient to make meth."

The labs that have been found in the last two years in Bartlett, Rockford 
and Crystal Lake have been small. Even the large bust in February of 391 
grams of meth in Aurora, is a far cry from the superlabs on the West Coast.

Officials hope it stays that way.

"If somebody up here starts manufacturing it and selling it, it will catch 
on," Warpness said.

Meth: Source of drug is not clear to authorities
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