Officials Seek Federal Help in Meth Fight

Officials Seek Federal Help in Meth Fight
Posted by FoM on February 06, 2000 at 13:02:08 PT
By Pamela Hill
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Prompted by the state's burgeoning methamphetamine problems, Gov. Mike Huckabee plans to ask the nation's drug czar to designate Arkansas as a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The move could land Arkansas millions of dollars in federal aid and resources to supplement law enforcement efforts and drug treatment programs.
  Huckabee said he hopes to meet with Gen. Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, later this month when Huckabee is in Washington for the National Governors' Conference.  The governor's request would follow a written proposal submitted Jan. 25 to McCaffrey's office laying out the state's wants and needs.  State Drug Director Bill Hardin developed the proposal with a committee of law enforcement officials. While Hardin and the governor say they will target methamphetamine use, the proposal is written so that state officials would have the flexibility to tackle other drug problems, such as marijuana and crack cocaine use.  But Huckabee made it clear Friday that methamphetamine and its effects on the state are what most concern him now.  "It's epidemic. That's the cancer right there," said Huckabee, contacted Friday night in Salt Lake City where he was attending a Republican Governors' Association conference. "That's the thing that's probably robbing us of more young people than anything else."  Year-end statistics from the State Crime Laboratory show law-enforcement agencies seized 121 more meth labs last year than in 1998. The 554 busts made Arkansas the No. 1 state in the nation in meth-lab seizures per capita, Hardin said, based on information from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  The governor said meth's widespread use and addictive properties make it the state's top drug problem.  "There are very few people who get really hooked on meth who don't end up ruining their lives. It's not a recreational kind of drug. It's an obsession, a severe addiction. The consequences of its use are dramatic," Huckabee said.  The ability to funnel more money toward drug treatment is one of the most appealing aspects of being designated a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the governor said.  In a talk last summer to law enforcement officials, Huckabee said drug-fighting efforts needed to be revised to include more treatment.  "Simply prosecuting and incarcerating drug users has not resulted in a dramatic downturn in drug use or abuse," Huckabee said Friday night. "Maybe our money would be better spent focusing on treatment and on what causes people to use drugs. Law enforcement in our state has done an extraordinary job. But it's kind of like trying to overcome kudzu with a half-horsepower lawnmower. At some point, you've got to reduce the root cause."  The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 authorized the Office of National Drug Control Policy director to designate areas with serious drug trafficking problems that could impact other areas of the country as High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.  Designated areas qualify for federal funds to help enforcement agencies assess drug-trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to reduce or eliminate production, distribution and chronic use of illegal drugs and money laundering.  More than $190 million was distributed for fiscal year 2000 to 31 designated drug-trafficking areas.  Hardin said he worked with U.S. attorneys P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith and Paula Casey of Little Rock, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, U.S. Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, representatives of the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association and the Association of Chiefs of Police, the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Highway Police and others to draft the proposal.  Charles Prouty, the agent in charge of the FBI's Arkansas bureau, will serve as board chairman of the Arkansas drug-trafficking area if the designation is approved.  A board of directors must be elected for the proposed area according to the application guidelines, Hardin said.  Scott Ando is a special agent and public-information officer for the DEA's New Orleans field division, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He also supervises the major investigations team for the Gulf Coast High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.  Arkansas is the only state in the DEA's New Orleans division that is not included in a drug-trafficking area, Ando said.  Just 30 miles from Arkansas' northwest border is the country's only designated drug-trafficking area dedicated solely to fighting methamphetamine.  The Midwest High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area includes 64 counties in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. There had been talk last year of including some Northwest Arkansas counties in that trafficking area, but it never occurred.  The Midwest area received $11.9 million for drug efforts in fiscal 1999.  "There's no doubt the methamphetamine problem, particularly the proliferation of clandestine labs, is the greatest problem law enforcement in Arkansas is facing today," said George J. Cazenavette III, special agent in charge of the DEA's New Orleans' field division. "DEA has increased our resources and personnel to combat the [meth-lab] problem in Arkansas."  Cazenavette also noted the growing problem of meth being imported into Arkansas from California and Mexico.  But throwing more money toward meth eradication isn't the only effort to curb drug problems in the state.  Arkansas State Police Col. Tom Mars announced in October that he was reassigning state troopers from federal task forces to a new team targeting narcotics dealers associated with organized crime or extreme violence.  The State Police Violent Crime/Narcotics Strike Force includes several experienced state police investigators, two federal DEA investigators and support staff from the state police's Intelligence Unit.  Hardin said the state police strike force would be the main drug-fighting tool in the Arkansas trafficking area.  The strike force members would add expertise and manpower to drug-trafficking investigations of other agencies. The strike force would supplement and work with the developing agency, not take over the investigation, Hardin said.  The proposed trafficking area would target Washington, Sebastian, Miller, Jefferson, Pulaski and Craighead counties and the surrounding areas, Hardin said.  In addition to funding for officers and equipment for drug investigations and treatment, the proposal also includes funding for a network to connect agencies and a meth-lab response unit in the State Crime Laboratory.  "[Hardin and the committee] called and asked what we could use," State Crime Lab Director Jim Clark said. "We asked for five additional chemists, two of whom we would dedicate to meth labs. That would give us five working just meth labs."  Clark also asked for another one-ton, four-wheel drive truck equipped with a decontamination station, generators, lighting and air tanks for chemists. The equipped vehicle would cost about $50,000, Clark said.  Chemists also have to wear protective clothing and use a breathing apparatus when working around toxic fumes from meth labs, he said.  Clark said money also is needed to buy equipment to analyze seized samples. The lab previously had a federal grant to buy the equipment but had to divert it to pay for a third chemist position dedicated to meth labs.  The crime lab has 13 chemists, and three work solely on meth-lab cases. They go to the sites where they dismantle the labs and analyze evidence. Other chemists analyze all the other drug cases, including meth not seized as part of a lab operation.  "If we can swing it, it sure will help us out," Clark said. Published on Sunday, February 6, 2000Copyright  2000, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. Related Articles:Washington 451 ALERT: Meth Bill Outlaws Any Drug Speech Would Outlaw Internet Drug Information
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #3 posted by dddd on February 24, 2001 at 23:50:45 PT
Global Jackson County
Let's not forget the Grand daddy of all Jackson Countys
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by citizen on February 24, 2001 at 23:13:58 PT
curruption in jackson county
What is it going to take, for someone to do something aboutthis county? Know one is safe the law does whatever they want, and there court system is a joke. The judge sits up there and says he's need's a break his hand hurts from signing papers to send all these people to jail. Then laughsand asked the policemen sitting up there by him if they think a certain person is innocent, should he be easy on them, or just go ahead and send them to jail. What kind of system is this they make a joke out of the legal system.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by cross citizen on January 22, 2001 at 19:11:48 PT
not fair
why fight when half the cops and the chief of police in wynne his son cooks are they gonna crack down on the chiefs kids   no of course not
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: