Pubdate: Wed, 31 Aug 2005
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (AK)
Copyright: 2005 Fairbanks Publishing Company, Inc.
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


WASHINGTON--When local police visited an assisted-living facility near 
Pittsburgh, Pa., they found employees cooking more than just the evening 
meal--authorities seized a lab used to make methamphetamine.

Police also made two of the more than 400 arrests that were part of the 
first nationally coordinated operation aimed at producers and sellers of 
the highly addictive drug.

Authorities announced Tuesday the results of Operation Wildfire, a 
cooperative effort among police in more than 200 communities--including 
Fairbanks, Anchorage and Wrangell--and the Drug Enforcement Administration. 
More than 200 pounds of the drug and 56 labs were seized.

In Fairbanks, investigators with the Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug 
Enforcement last Wednesday morning executed a search warrant in connection 
with a small mobile methamphetamine lab.

Sgt. Ron Wall, Fairbanks ABADE supervisor, said no arrests have been made 
in connection with the warrant. He said he could not comment further on the 

"We are still actively investigating it," he said.

Though methamphetamine is getting national attention now, Wall said it has 
been a problem in Fairbanks for years and one the bureau has been working 
to eradicate. The investigation that prompted the Wednesday warrant wasn't 
spurred by the nationwide push, he said, but the bureau was aware of the 

"We knew the push was going on and we actively attempted to execute this to 
help the push," Wall said. "We are glad to see that it is actually getting 
a lot of publicity."

Bureau investigators also served a search warrant on a suspected lab in the 
Caswell Lakes area near Wasilla, according to a news release from the 
Alaska State Troopers.

"The manufacturing and use of methamphetamine continues to be a problem 
throughout Alaska," said Captain Ed Harrington, commander of ABADE, in the 
press release. "Statewide drug enforcement is one of the Alaska State 
Trooper's six core missions. We continually work to be proactive in 
fighting the supply of drugs in Alaska."

Elsewhere in the country, eight counties in rural western North Carolina 
accounted for 70 of the 427 arrests made nationwide.

Two elderly residents of the assisted-living facility in Donora, Pa., had 
to be hospitalized for exposure to toxic chemicals from the meth lab, DEA 
administrator Karen Tandy said. In Minneapolis, drug agents and police 
seized a lab in a hotel across the street from an elementary school, Tandy 

"It's homemade, cheap and readily available," Tandy said of meth, noting 
that after starting in the West, it has been found in every state.

Authorities also took custody of 30 children, including two in Missouri, 
who were living in a bug-infested home where meth was being produced, she said.

The arrests followed intense criticism from members of Congress and local 
law enforcement that the federal government is not doing enough to combat 
the use of methamphetamine. More than half the 500 sheriffs in a recent 
survey called meth their top problem, far surpassing cocaine and marijuana.

Local officials applauded the results announced Tuesday, calling them good 
first steps. But the administration has proposed eliminating $804 million 
in grants to local authorities in drug-fighting efforts, said Joe Dunn, 
assistant legislative director for the National Association of Counties.

"We'd like them to reverse that decision," Dunn said, noting Congress 
appears likely to restore at least $400 million.

Methamphetamine, which can come in the form of a crystal-like powder or 
rock-like chunks, is an addictive stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, 
injected or taken orally. Its street names include "ice," "crystal," 
"speed" and "tina."

Meth can be made using ingredients in over-the-counter cold medicines, 
prompting a dozen states to pass laws forcing stores to remove medicines 
containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from shelves.

At least 12 million people have tried meth, according to the National 
Survey on Drug Use and Health. Authorities have dismantled more than 50,000 
clandestine meth labs since 2001.

Far more people use marijuana, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales 
recently said meth has overtaken marijuana as the greatest danger to children.

Gonzales has led an administration-wide effort to respond to those who say 
the meth problem was being ignored until recently. Tandy and McGregor 
Scott, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, Calif., recited lengthy lists of 
law enforcement actions and prosecutions aimed at meth.

"We have been dealing with this issue for years," Gonzales said at a 
Justice Department news conference.

Gonzales said he spoke Monday with his Mexican counterpart, Daniel Cabeza 
de Vaca, about finding ways to stem the movement of meth from Mexican labs 
to the United States. The government estimates that roughly two-thirds of 
the meth in the United States comes from Mexico.

U.S. officials also are working with Mexicans to try to control shipments 
of pseudoephedrine and other raw materials used in meth from other 
countries, Tandy said,

The DEA also unveiled an anti-meth Web site aimed at teens,

The Bush administration earlier this month announced a training laboratory 
for police agencies and $16.2 million in grants to focus on treatment of 
meth addicts.

On the Net:

List of local participants in Operation Wildfire: 

Drug Enforcement Administration:

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America:
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