Pubdate: Sun, 10 Feb 2008
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2008 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Note: The Journal does not publish LTEs from writers outside its 
circulation area
Author: John Railey
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


In the first three weeks of December, Davidson County deputies raided
three methamphetamine labs. It was the classic good/bad news: good
because the deputies were on the job, and bad because there's still so
much meth out there for them to find.

But there could be a lot more of this highly addictive, destructive
drug out there. In the meth theater of the otherwise losing war on
drugs, the good guys have won some battles. It's far too early to
declare a victory. But it's worth noting that in Davidson, just as in
other counties across the state, law-enforcement officials and others
have waged a concerted effort that may just stop meth from becoming,
to use the cliche, the crack cocaine of the 2000s. "We feel like it is
subsiding," said Sheriff David Grice of Davidson County. If that does
turn out to be the case in Davidson and other counties, a lot of lives
will be saved. And without so many meth addicts, millions of tax
dollars won't have to go toward supporting them and their families,
whether the addicts are in prison or outside it.

Meth, which has been around for decades, spread east several years
ago, hitting rural areas hard. In North Carolina, it started in the
western part of the state, then moved to other areas.

In counties such as Davidson, where too many factories have closed,
meth offered an escape from reality for users and the chance for quick
bucks for those who manufactured their product in crude labs. The labs
were often in homes. The ingredients used to make meth are highly
flammable and toxic, endangering both the children who live around
these labs and law officers and emergency workers.

Attorney General Roy Cooper obviously took all that into consideration
when he began his battle with the meth makers. He pushed legislators
into action. They passed a law restricting sales of cold medicines
containing pseudoephedrine, a major ingredient in meth production.
Prosecutors took up the battle in the courts. "As the prosecutions
continue and the active sentences are rendered, obviously we believe
that's a deterrent to those who are on the minimum side of abusing,"
said Greg Brown, an assistant district attorney whose jurisdiction
includes Davidson. "It may very well stop that first abuse." Davidson
County's biggest meth cases often go to federal court, where
guidelines mandate the toughest punishment.

Fred McClure, the chairman of the Davidson County commissioners, took
up the fight as well. He pushed for a task force on meth that includes
law-enforcement agencies in the county and other organizations. "We
just got the schools involved and the hospitals involved and everybody
working on treatment and prevention," he said.

Too often, battles against social ills are lost because of turf
disputes and a lack of communication. There's probably been some of
that in the fight against meth statewide. But the meth fight has more
often been characterized by a rare degree of cooperation.

And all the ads and news stories nationwide - the ones featuring mug
shots of people before they got on meth and after it ravaged them -
might have scared a few people away from the drug as well.

Although there are still enough meth labs in the state to endanger
children and many others, law-enforcement officers have shut down many
others. But dirtball dealers from outside North Carolina are sure to
see the opening and start bringing more meth here. They know the
demand isn't going away. So do the guys across the line in law
enforcement. They're making progress, but the fight goes on.

"We're going to follow every tip we get and prosecute them to the
fullest extent of the law," Sheriff Grice said.
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