Pubdate: Wed, 29 Mar 2006
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Asheville Citizen-Times


ENKA -- Analysts at the SBI crime lab in Skyland are pulling
fingerprints from evidence collected two years ago. They're scanning
drugs from investigations of eight months ago.The lab's backlog
persists, agent Brian Delmas said, despite an expanded facility where
technicians have worked for about a month.

Until five of its 12 full-time technicians finish training and two
more are hired, the State Bureau of Investigation won't fill its new

"We're basically at half staff," Delmas said.

Delmas explained the delays in investigations to a crowd of law
enforcement officials gathered at Asheville-Buncombe Technical
Community College's Enka campus Tuesday afternoon for a drug-
enforcement conference.

He told them they could help by lifting prints and sending those to
the lab instead of, say, a beer can with somebody's prints on it.

The seminars offered a chance for federal, state and local law
enforcement to compare problems and share solutions.

Advice on curbing drug dealing included techniques to recruit a whole
community in the effort.

Madison County Sheriff John Ledford said drug busts there have started
with tips from school counselors, utility meter-readers, even
farm-supply merchants who flagged bulk sales of common methamphetamine

Meth took centerstage at the forum, where authorities described a
growing replacement of home-cooked meth with stronger varieties
imported from Mexico.

They also spoke of solutions to urban drug dealing.

Gene Bell, executive director of the Asheville Housing Authority,
showed photos of structural changes in public housing to eliminate
spots for dealers to loiter: brighter streetlamps, gates blocking
stairwells, posts along streets to keep vehicles from pulling off for

And when they shoot out the lamps, climb through the bars and pull the
posts from the ground? Bell orders repairs and improvements made and
hopes persistence pays off.

Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower, an organizer of Tuesday's
seminars, advised law enforcement to find people like Bell --
"exhausted, frustrated community leaders" -- and partner with them.
There are plenty of people with a stake in the fight.

"There is a building momentum," Mumpower said after the conference,
"to fight back against hard drugs in Western North Carolina."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin