'Crank' It Up, Suburbs: Coke, Smack, Pot Trail Meth

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:23pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - While the nation's county law enforcement officers are making progress in limiting the supply of methamphetamine, the demand rages, producing more problems for local police than cocaine, heroine and marijuana combined, a new survey reveals.

"Precursor legislation" that limits or monitors the sale of meth's key ingredients has been successful in reducing the number of active meth labs, the National Association of Counties (NACo) survey indicated. Nearly half -- 46 percent -- of the 500 law enforcement officials questioned said they seized fewer of the labs since July 2005, the last time the NACo survey was conducted.

But while these figures may signal a drop in supply, 48 percent of the sheriffs reported that methamphetamine still represented the primary drug problem in their counties. Cocaine was most prevalent in 22 percent of the responding counties, marijuana in another 22 percent of the jurisdictions and heroin in 3 percent.

Methamphetamine - also called meth, crank, tweak, ice or speed - can be made from household chemicals by "cooking" them in volatile home labs. Usually smoked, the drug over-stimulates the central nervous system and binges can last for days, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC) stated.

Sixty-three percent of counties reported that meth was responsible for an increased workload for police since June 2005 and more than half attributed increases in robbery and burglary to meth use.

Barbara Seitz de Martinez, deputy director of the IPRC, said it makes sense that robbery and assault would increase in areas where meth use is common. "Methamphetamine does have that kind of effect on a person because meth causes people to be more aggressive," she said.

"It causes hyperactivity, it causes lack of sleep, it creates a need for replenishing the drug supply and ... it creates paranoia, which leads to other kinds of incidents," she said.

Seitz de Martinez said some meth users "will get together and go out and rob ... and do things in groups because they sort of enjoy the chase when the police come after them."

Joe Dunn, an associate legislative director at NACo, said the study's findings call for increased federal aid for county law enforcement agencies to help fight meth use.

"For the last several years, everybody's been so focused on the labs, that that was such a unique aspect of the meth crisis," Dunn said. "Now it's moved to more of a traditional drug problem where interdiction is the main law enforcement focus so the federal government hopefully will take our lead ... and fund this critical program called the Justice Assistance Grants."

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Justice Assistance Grants program was created in 2005 and provided $635 million that year "to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system." The grants included funding for prevention and education programs, drug treatment programs and law enforcement efforts.

Dunn said that "many communities use [JAG funds] for multi-jurisdictional drug task forces and so a city and a county or several cities and counties will get together and try to pool their resources and fight a drug problem on a regional basis."

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