Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jul 2005
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2005 Messenger-Inquirer
Author: Ryan Lenz, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Federal Emphasis On Pot Dismays Law Enforcers

EVANSVILLE -- The crippling reach of methamphetamine abuse has become
the leading drug problem affecting local law enforcement agencies,
according to a survey of 500 sheriff's departments in 45 states.

About 90 percent of the sheriffs interviewed for a National
Association of Counties survey released Tuesday reported increases in
meth-related arrests in their counties during the last three years,
and more than half of those interviewed said they considered meth the
most serious problem their department faces.

The arrests have packed jails in the Midwest and elsewhere and swamped
other county-level agencies, which face additional work, such as
caring for children whose parents have become addicted and cleaning up
toxic chemicals left behind by meth cookers.

"We're finding out that this is a bigger problem than we thought,"
said Larry Naake, executive director of the association. "Folks at the
state and federal level need to know about this."

The report comes soon after the White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy restated its stance that marijuana remains the nation's
most substantial drug problem. Federal estimates show there are 15
million marijuana users compared to the 1 million that might use meth.

Dave Murray, a policy analyst for the White House, said he understood
that the meth problem moving through the nation was serious and
substantial. But he disagreed that it had reached the state of an epidemic.

"This thing is burning, and because it's burning, we're going to put
it out," he said. "But we can't turn our back on other threats."

While most in law enforcement recognize marijuana as a problem, those
costs are far outweighed by those from jailing inmates on meth
charges, cleaning up makeshift labs and caring for the children left
behind when addicted parents are sent to prison or treatment, said
Sheriff Jon Marvel of western Indiana's Vigo County.

Marvel estimates that 80 percent of the inmates in his county's jail
in Terre Haute are held on meth-related charges. He also points to an
operating budget that has risen from $800,000 in 1999 to about $3.4
million last year as the best way to illustrate the stranglehold meth
has on the county's resources.

"I want it stopped, and I want it stopped now, and there is no way
that's going to happen," Marvel said.

The regions the report cites as having the greatest increase in meth
arrests during the last five years include the upper Midwest, the
Southwest and Northwest.

States which reported a doubling of meth arrests during the last five
years include: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South
Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wyoming. States reporting
similar increases in the last three years were Georgia, Kentucky,
South Dakota, Iowa and Mississippi.

Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain, whose county leads Kentucky in meth
arrests, said that meth has pulled his department away from fighting
other crimes.

"The other crime not only doesn't go away, but it worsens because it's
not being dealt with," Cain said.

A component of the survey examining meth's effect on children found
that 40 percent of child welfare officials in 13 states where welfare
is a county responsibility said they had removed more children from
homes because of meth.

Members in Congress, who have heard countless stories about meth's
hold on communities in their states, have become increasingly vocal
about the problem and have accused the federal government of moving
too slow in addressing the problem.

"It ain't just in Kansas anymore," said Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana
Republican. "The whole country is screaming. The entire nation is
yelling. At what point does Washington respond?"
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin