Midwest Meth Seizures Expose Rural Drug Epidemic

Midwest Meth Seizures Expose Rural Drug Epidemic
Posted by FoM on December 15, 1999 at 09:22:54 PT
The Associated Press
Source: Albuquerque Tribune
Law-enforcement agents fought a surge in methamphetamine trafficking and use across the Midwest in 1999 by seizing hundreds of secret drug labs, deflating the image of drugs as only an urban problem.
   In the first half of this year, local and federal law enforcement seized 238 meth or "speed" labs in Kansas, 242 in Iowa and 223 in Missouri, according to a report released today detailing the government's anti-drug efforts across the nation.   "We do not just have a national drug problem. What we really have is a series of local drug epidemics," said Barry McCaffrey, the administration's drug policy chief.   McCaffrey discussed the report today at a conference for drug-control leaders in Washington.   The report describes the government's war on drugs in 31 battlegrounds, called High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. From the Mexican border to the streets of New York, these areas have been selected during the last decade as regions with serious drug problems that also harm other areas of the country.   In the high trafficking areas, local, state, federal and military law-enforcement agencies work together on various projects to oppose illegal drug use and distribution.   After starting with a federal investment of $25 million shared among five regions in 1990, the program will divide more than $190 million in 2000.   The report said that in the Northeast, despite dramatic drops in crime, the New York-New Jersey area remains a "mecca" for narcotics trafficking. While all drugs can be found in the area, heroin and cocaine dominate the scene because of the profits and potential violence they generate. The demand for crack has fallen, but it is still available and being actively distributed.   Area law-enforcement agencies have turned high-tech in recent years, creating a computer network containing photographs of every person arrested on state or federal charges in New York City and Westchester and Nassau Counties.   In Appalachia, the area containing Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, marijuana is "the number one cash crop," the report said. The three states produce more than 1.6 million outdoor marijuana plants -- over 40 percent of the nationwide total.   While much of the marijuana is cultivated in remote mountainous regions, growers are increasingly moving indoors. Traffickers use vehicles with complex hidden compartments to transport the drugs.   Since being designated a high trafficking area last year, law-enforcement agencies have made almost 2,000 arrests and have destroyed nearly half a million marijuana plants.   Among the 31 high trafficking areas ranging from Hawaii to New England, the report also found:   An increasing amount of Canadian grown marijuana is being smuggled across the border into the United States. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimate the annual production at 800 tons. The marijuana is often exchanged for cocaine.   Metropolitan Atlanta is the nation's major southeast distribution point for methamphetamine, which is smuggled in as a finished product from areas including California and northern Mexico.   In central Florida, heroin is an increasing problem, with the number of heroin-related deaths in the Orlando area tripling since 1994.   Chicago is a major drug trafficking hub for Mexican, Colombian and Nigerian criminal organizations, but street gangs account for most of the local drug distribution. Published: December 15, 1999 The Albuquerque Tribune. Related Article:U.S. Drug War Detailed in Report - 12/15/99
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