Pubdate: Sun, 25 Sep 2005
Source: Patriot-News, The (PA)
Copyright: 2005 The Patriot-News
Author: Theodore Decker, Patriot News
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Most Make Only Enough For Themselves And A Few Friends, Making It Far 
More Difficult For Law Enforcement To Infiltrate Than Typical Drug Hierarchies.

Coming Soon: A Special Report On Meth Valley, Pa., Just A Few Hours' 
Drive From Harrisburg

With a telltale, noxious chemical stink, the illicit drug 
methamphetamine announced its arrival in New Cumberland last week.

Borough Police Chief Oren "Bud" Kauffman was disappointed but far 
from surprised.

"We know it's coming this way," Kauffman said after Wednesday's 
arrest of two men accused of trying to make the drug in a borough 
apartment building. "Had I hoped in my heart of hearts that it 
wouldn't? Of course."

Law enforcement officials rank meth as the No. 1 drug problem in the 
country. The addictive stimulant is dangerous to make but provides a 
euphoric high for hours.

Already a scourge across middle America, its tendrils are snaking 
with some regularity into the midstate.

It doesn't take long for meth to take hold.

It's said that every meth "cook" teaches another 10 users how to make 
the drug. Most make only enough for themselves and a few friends, 
making it far more difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate than 
typical drug hierarchies.

Virtually everything needed to make the drug can be found at the 
store, under the kitchen sink or in the garage.

"I can make meth, or a meth cook can make meth, in a 2-foot-by-2-foot 
space," state police Cpl. Scott Heatley said. "It's scarily simple, 
which again adds to our problem."

"You don't need a high school degree, you don't need a chemistry 
degree, you just need somebody to show you how to do it once or 
twice," state police Sgt. Craig M. Summers said. "It's just one of 
those whisper-down-the-lanes, 'This is how you do it.' Then it just 
spreads like wildfire."

"We liken it to dandelions," said Nils Frederiksen of the state 
attorney general's office. "You can have one or two in the spring, 
and you turn your back on your yard and it's covered with them.

"Other states will tell you, if you don't think you have a meth 
problem yet, just wait a little while," he said.

March Across The Country:

In Pennsylvania, meth is undergoing a sort of homecoming.

There was a time in the 1970s when Philadelphia, with its entrenched 
biker culture, was known as the meth capital of the United States.

With the rise of crack cocaine and the rebirth of heroin, though, 
meth -- sometimes called poor man's cocaine, biker's coffee, crank or 
ice -- fell by the wayside.

But in recent years, fueled by Mexican superlabs producing large 
quantities of the drug and bolstered by an army of do-it-yourself 
addicts making meth in their kitchens, bathtubs, even the trunks of 
their cars, the drug has marched across the country from west to east.

It is still far from a plague in most of Pennsylvania. Local police, 
prosecutors and human services agencies said its impact remains small 
when compared to the local drugs of choice -- alcohol, marijuana, 
cocaine and heroin.

Last year, for example, Pennsylvania logged only 106 clandestine 
laboratory incidents, which include not only lab discoveries, but 
dumpsites and chemical and glassware seizures that can be linked to 
meth production. By contrast, Missouri logged 2,788 incidents.

"Missouri is an epidemic," Summers said. "We have a problem."

So far this year, the state police Clandestine Laboratory/Weapons of 
Mass Destruction Response Team has been called out 106 times, though 
not all the call-outs resulted in a confirmed meth incident, said 
Summers, the team's eastern section supervisor.

Experts said states infected with meth typically will see a doubling 
of discovered labs from year to year, much like Pennsylvania's 30 in 
2002, 62 in 2003 and 106 last year.

"It's actually slowed down a little bit," Summers said Friday. "We're 
not doubling this year."

This year, the team has handled two meth-related calls in York 
County, one each in Cumberland and Lebanon counties, and none in 
Dauphin and Perry counties.

"We have not seen it become a problem here in Dauphin County," 
Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. said. 
"However, I'm well aware it's a problem. My colleagues in the 
northwestern part of the state are really fighting it. We expect 
we'll be seeing more of it in upcoming months."

Hazardous Waste:

Local law enforcement agencies said they are lucky in the sense that 
they can rely upon the expertise and suggestions of their 
counterparts in states to the west who have years of experience in 
dealing with meth.

Lawmakers on the state and federal levels continue to push 
legislation designed to crack down on methamphetamine production and 
restrict the availability of some of its ingredients, such as the 
common cold reliever, psuedoephedrine.

One key is to make the public more aware of the signs and symptoms of 
meth culture, authorities said.

In the Harrisburg area, Summers said, "they don't have that awareness level."

That was Glenys DiLissio's thinking when she arranged two forums 
earlier this summer to teach firefighters, police and other first 
responders about meth and its dangers. The volatility of the 
chemicals used to make meth can lead to explosions, fires and toxic 
fumes. The leftovers are literally considered hazardous waste.

Though Perry County so far seems spared by meth's grip, DiLissio, the 
director of Perry Human Services, had heard about the problems in 
other parts of the state and decided to act now.

"We know it's around," DiLissio said. "Let's not pretend it's not 
here. Let's not pretend it's not going to happen here. My guess is, 
it's here. We just haven't seen it yet."

"I don't want our agency to be the 'we coulda woulda shoulda, but 
didn't,'" she said.

Frederiksen said state agencies will launch a meth awareness campaign 
across Pennsylvania this fall.

"As the folks in New Cumberland can tell you, it's not impossible for 
a meth lab to pop up next to your house," he said.

Not Going To Go Away:

For Kauffman, the situation in his borough drove home the pull of 
methamphetamine, the realization that a substance could drive a user 
to take huge risks with his own life and the lives of others simply 
to get high.

"This is how dangerous this substance is, that you would not care 
about other people in those other apartments, that you knowingly are 
working with explosive chemicals and toxic chemicals," he said. 
"What's that say? To me, it says that it's about the drug. Common 
sense goes right out the window."

Ultimately, authorities said, curbing meth will mean quashing the 
demand rather than the supply.

"If there's another simple way of manufacturing it, it's not going to 
go away," Summers said.

Earlier this year, an attorney general's investigation in Bucks 
County yielded 67 pounds of meth produced by an organized ring tied 
to the Warlocks outlaw motorcycle gang.

"You won't see a motorcycle gang in Philadelphia producing 67 pounds 
of meth unless you have a market for 67 pounds of meth," Frederiksen said.

"Where there is a demand, there will be a supply, whether it's meth 
or crack cocaine," he said. "Society as a whole, we need to work to 
address demand."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman