Pubdate: Fri, 17 Jun 2005
Source: Plainview Daily Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2005 Plainview Daily Herald
Author: Tim Watts
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


A concern that is at the forefront of the drug problem in Plainview
for County Judge Bill Hollars and Constable Mark Mull is the overall
drug use in juveniles and the availability of it around schools.

Both say students are bringing drugs to school and some are caught and

"If we don't get the drug use stopped in the younger people, we really
don't know how bad this can get," Mull said. "We need to weed out the
drug use in the youngsters so they don't grow up with that lifestyle."

Hollars and Mull both admit, though, that for juvenile drug use to
stop they are going to have to want help or just say "No" before it
all starts.

"We really have a limited amount of options on what we can do with
juveniles. We can give them probation and send them to substance abuse
programs for rehab and that gets expensive for taxpayers," said
Hollars, who has been on the local bench for 25 years.

"If an offender gets five years and then finally gets out, he's still
gonna crave meth when he gets out. The problem with drugs is that by
the time the juveniles are involved in the judicial system because of
drug charges or whatever, it's already too late; they really can't be

"The bottom line is they have to want to get better. We are fighting a
big war with a small stick as far as the options we have due to
funding. The thing with drugs, meth specifically, is that unless the
user wants help, there's really nothing that can be done. It is just a
highly addictive drug."

Hollars said the options the court has are severely limited due to
Senate Bill 7.

Also known as the Texas Fair Defense Act, Senate Bill 7 overhauls
Texas' indigent criminal defense system and provides new minimum
standards for lawyers.

Among other things, the act requires the prompt appointment of defense
counsel after arrest; prompt attorney contact with defendants; and
establishes minimum qualifications that appointed attorneys must meet.

It also defines basic standards for determining indigency; outlines
methods judges use to appoint attorneys; and requires judges to
establish an attorney fee schedule.

That makes the options for the Hale County justice system

"We operate on an $11 million budget each year for the courts and
jails. I would estimate 60 percent of that goes toward criminal law
enforcement," said Hollars. "Senate Bill 7 is set up so that anyone
who is arrested for a Class B misdemeanor or above has to be
magistrated within 24 hours, meaning we have to appoint them an
attorney. Our court-appointed attorney fees have mushroomed since this
act went into place."

Hollars said court-appointed attorneys cost the courts about $500 each

Those costs cut into the funding of anything such as rehab or jail
time that could help the dealers and users stop what they're doing and
become productive citizens.

Due to the lack of funding available, Hollars and Mull agree on one
thing: Plainview citizens need to admit there is a problem and do
something about it.

Mull cites a glaring example.

"We had this 19-year-old boy not too long ago who kept calling about
being burglarized all the time so we went to check it out. When we got
there and went in he was kind of tweaking' and real paranoid and would
all of a sudden ask us Did you see that?'

"We'd say what?' Then he'd say the robber just peeked in from the
chimney, then the robber was suddenly behind us. Then we went outside
and he kept saying there were burglars driving by, but no one was there."

Mull said they ended up checking the young man's blood pressure and
heart rate and his heart was beating 184 times a minute.

"We tried to explain to his mother that he needed to go to the
hospital and get help, but she said he was fine and that he was just
nervous. He never got any help. I could never prove he was on meth
because he didn't go to the hospital but I am real sure he was because
he had all the symptoms," Mull said.

Symptoms of meth use include paranoia, anxiety, increased blood
pressure and heart rate and increased body temperature.

Mull also added there's a problem with parents and kids: no one wants
to admit there's a problem and so the problem gets bigger.

"We need help from the parents. If they see anything abnormal about
their kids' behavior, they shouldn't be afraid to call us. We aren't
going to take your kid away. Believe us, we want kids to get better
and stay away from drugs."

Hollars, Mull and the rest of the Plainview lawmen are asking for
community help to combat this problem.

"If someone has any suggestions or tips that can lead to something
positive, we always need them," said Mull.

Concerned residents should call Crime Stoppers at 293-TIPS (8477) and
can remain anonymous.

Mull said he and the lawmen in Plainview are readily available and
will go anywhere to speak with people about the drug problem.

"We need tips so that we can make Hale County safer because drugs are a
huge problem here."
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