Pubdate: Tue, 22 May 2007
Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)
Copyright: 2007 Independent Publishing Company, a division of E.W. Scripps
Author: Liz Carey
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Note: MAP archives articles exactly as published, except that our 
editors may redact the names and addresses of accused persons who 
have not been convicted of a crime, if those named are not otherwise 
public figures or officials.


Meth Lab Bust -- Omen Of Future

According to the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, recent arrests for 
methamphetamine production and trafficking are the future of Anderson 
County, not the past.

"Methamphetamine is our No. 1 drug problem in the Upstate," said Mike 
Miller, director of the Anderson-Oconee Regional Forensics 
Laboratory. "Sixty-nine percent of my case load is methamphetamine 
.. We are the final East Coast version of every other state in the country."

In his 11th year as a law enforcement officer, Mr. Miller said he has 
been at 572 clandestine meth lab busts, predominantly in Anderson and 
Oconee counties. Across the state, he said, Anderson ranks No. 1 in 
the number of meth labs seized.

In 2006 and 2005, he said, Anderson was the No. 1 county in the state 
for meth labs seized. Prior to that, Anderson and Greenville were the 
top two counties in the state for meth labs seized

So far this year, that trend is continuing.

According to his department's statistics, clandestine meth laboratory 
seizures peaked in 2003 at 81 in Anderson and Oconee counties. Law 
enforcement stepped up its education efforts concerning the drug. 
Later, in 2005 and 2006, legislation in South Carolina not only 
restructured the crime and its penalties, but also later controlled 
the sale and distribution of chemicals and supplies used in making meth.

And since 2003, the number of meth labs seized has fallen below that 
high mark set in 2003.

But Mr. Miller said the number of meth lab busts so far this year is 
higher than it was this time last year. A recent arrest is the 10th 
in Anderson and Oconee counties this year.

"In 2006, we didn't reach 10 until June," he said. " I expect (the 
number of meth lab seizures) to be the same rate as last year, but it 
could potentially be higher because we've already seen more meth 
coming through the door."

On May 20, [Name redacted], was arrested at her home at [address 
redacted], when the Sheriff's Office received a complaint that she 
was cooking meth in her home. According to the sheriff's report, 
[Name redacted] is on probation for manufacturing meth.

Agents found 2 grams of suspected meth and the chemicals and 
equipment used to make it throughout the house, the report said. In 
the report, officers said [Name redacted] admitted she had a small 
amount of the drug in her bedroom, and that while she had cooked some 
the night before "there wasn't anything currently cooking in the residence."

[Name redacted] was charged with manufacturing meth, and possession 
with intent to distribute, the report said.

A seeming decrease in clandestine lab seizures over the last two 
years is misleading, Mr. Miller said. Meth users aren't going away, 
they were just getting their drugs from somewhere else, he said. 
According to him, Mexican drug cartels have been flooding the Upstate 
with meth. Now that they have an addicted base, he said, they are 
cutting down the purity of their product to create a new need for the 
drug and increasing the price.

"So, lab seizures aren't the daily constant headache they used to 
be," he said. "But now you've got a situation where the user base is 
up. And they are buying more of it, but it's not as pure as they are 
used to, so they need it more frequently. It's not going to be long 
before it flips over again. We've seen a spike already this year."

In an arrest on May 16, the Anderson County Sheriff's Department 
seized 72 pounds of marijuana and 11.5 grams of meth, along with 
trafficking materials and several firearms when they executed a 
search warrant at the home of [Name redacted]. [Name redacted] was 
charged with trafficking marijuana and methamphetamine, receiving 
stolen property and possession of a firearm during the commission of 
a violent crime.

Mr. Miller said he also anticipates an increase in violent crimes, 
violent attacks in the detention center and personal crimes such as 
car break-ins and burglary, as addicts try to find the money to pay 
for their habit.

Any increase in drug-related crime, the sheriff said, would mean more 
work, but not more pay.

"It will obviously mean more work and more man hours for our 
narcotics unit," Sheriff David Crenshaw said.

However, because of a freeze on overtime, officers will not be 
receiving more money. Instead, he said, officers would receive comp 
time should their duties require them to work beyond the 40-hour 
maximum, he said.

That won't, however, impact his office's response, he said.

"We will react as swiftly and as harshly as possible. We will 
continue to attack the war on drugs." Sheriff Crenshaw said. "We'll 
be doing the same thing we always have, very diligently, to arrest 
people who are manufacturing and trafficking drugs, and keep the 
drugs off the street and out of the hands of our children."


Number of Clandestine Meth Labs Seized in Anderson and Oconee counties

2001 - 9
2002 - 44
2003 - 81
2004 - 70
2005 - 49
2006 - 49

Source: Anderson-Oconee Regional Forensics Laboratory
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman