Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jan 2006
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Note: The Journal does not publish letters from writers outside its 
daily home delivery circulation area.
Author: Monte Mitchell
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Law For Mandatory Jail Terms Is Helping, He Says

BOONE - N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said yesterday that he 
expects to see a reduction of methamphetamine labs in the state this year.

"I truly believe the number of meth labs is leveling off and will 
continue to level off because of the actions we've taken," he said in 
a phone interview.

There were 328 clandestine labs seized in 2005 in North Carolina, up 
slightly from the 322 labs found in 2004. But it is the first time 
since 2000 that the numbers didn't double from the previous year.

Cooper said that a law requiring mandatory jail terms for 
manufacturers was in place last year. He also cites a law that went 
into effect Sunday that requires all single and multisource tablets, 
caplets or pills containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine be sold 
behind a pharmacy counter.

"When we first made this proposal, you saw a number of chain 
pharmacies go ahead and do what we were suggesting to do," he said. 
"We believe that voluntary action had a positive effect. We believe 
we'll see a reduction, not only a leveling off with meth labs."

Lt. Todd Phillips of the Watauga County Sheriff's Office agrees that 
the new law has already helped.

"Most places I was going into (this past year) it was already behind 
the counter," Phillips said.

Watauga County, the state's meth capital in 2003 with 34 clandestine 
labs seized, has seen a drop. Thirty-four labs were also found in 
2004, but just 16 labs were seized last year.

Sheriff Mark Shook said that the decrease is a result of the focus 
that the sheriff's office has put into its anti-methamphetamine 
program. "While there is still methamphetamine in our communities, it 
has become harder to make and harder to get," he said.

The Northwest North Carolina Meth--amphetamine Task Force, which 
started in 2004, is based in Watauga County. Counties including Ashe 
and Wilkes cooperate in the task force, with continued help from the 
State Bureau of Investigation.

They have found that discovering one meth lab often leads to others. 
The counties have also had meth-lab operators, or cooks, arrested on 
federal charges, which lead to longer sentences.

"Those main cooks, they're gone and they're not coming back," said 
Phillips. "Today's stats result from those cooks still being in prison."

Cooper said that things changed in Watauga County because people 
recognized the seriousness of the situation and worked together.

"Everybody was up in arms about the problem," he said.

"There was a focused attack on meth at all levels. I think we were 
able to arrest a lot of people and drive a lot of people out."

Even if the cooks are driven out, authorities in Watauga County are 
now seeing more people trafficking in meth-amphetamines, bringing the 
drugs in by car and truck.

The attorney general's office and the SBI are forming a task force in 
Western North Carolina to fight the use of methamphetamine and to 
target major methamphetamine traffickers.
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