Drawing A Bead On A Nasty Drug

Drawing A Bead On A Nasty Drug
Posted by FoM on November 09, 1999 at 08:28:45 PT
By James Prichard, Associated Press Writer
Source: Evansville Courier & Press
It has spread like a wind-driven wildfire through Western Kentucky during the past few years. Open a newspaper, change the television channel or click on the radio and there it is: another methamphetamine lab bust. 
Now more federal help is headed to the region’s law-enforcement agencies to battle the illegal manufacture, sale and use of the stimulant, which can be either smoked or injected. “It is the most insidious drug that I’ve seen, and I’m including heroin,” said Ralph D. Vick, commonwealth’s attorney for Muhlenberg and McLean counties. “It is an extremely addictive drug. I’ve not seen anything that’s worse.” Methamphetamine, also known as “meth,” “crystal” and “crank,” is popular because it is incredibly profitable and relatively easy to make. Internet sites explain how to do it and most of the necessary equipment and ingredients can be found around the house or purchased in stores. In Kentucky, the problem has been concentrated in the western third of the state. It is the main reason the federal Drug Enforcement Administration plans to open a two-agent bureau in Madisonville. The first agent is scheduled to arrive in late November, the second in early January. In addition, Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., has asked Congress for $1 million in grants that local law-enforcement agencies can use in their war against the drug. “They can basically do anything they want to with it as long as they think it will help discourage the growth of methamphetamine,” he said. The money is part of an appropriations bill that President Clinton vetoed on Wednesday, though Whitfield was confident that the funding soon will be secured. The area served by the DEA office in Louisville is virtually the entire state west of Interstate 65. Because of Western Kentucky’s methamphetamine problem, more agents were needed in the field there, said Rick Sanders, resident DEA agent in charge in Louisville. The agency also has offices in Lexington and London. Muhlenberg County Sheriff Jerry D. Mayhugh has firsthand knowledge of the situation. Along with Daviess County, Muhlenberg probably has been Kentucky’s hardest-hit county when it comes to methamphetamine. Vick said many people who get caught using methamphetamine and are released on bond are addicts and end up being arrested again, before they can be tried for the first offense. Of the roughly 275 cases he has tried since being appointed in September 1997, at least 200 have been related to methamphetamine, the prosecutor said. Mayhugh and Sanders said they believe the problem actually may have peaked in Western Kentucky, though other law officers disagreed. Mayhugh placed much of the credit on the special methamphetamine training his officers have received during the past two years. Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cane said the problem is as great as ever in his county, where more than 100 labs have been closed down since July 1, 1998. “I think we’ve done three this week,” Cane said late last month. Most of the people making it there are using it themselves, with some being sold to support their habit, he said. “For a very, very limited amount of investment, $100 or $150, these individuals can turn out $2,000 or $3,000 worth of the drug very easily,” Cane said. Theft and injury often accompany methamphetamine manufacture and use. Anhydrous ammonia, a crop fertilizer, is the most difficult component of the drug to obtain, so it often is stolen from farms or farm supply companies. Improperly handled, the caustic, combustible compound can explode, causing serious injury or even death. Merchants are helping law-enforcement officers by reporting large purchases of Sudafed, Drano, engine cleaner or other items used to make methamphetamine. While talking with a reporter, Mayhugh received a call from a Muhlenberg County auto parts store where someone had just bought a case of engine cleaner and had ordered another. The cleaner contains ether, a main component in the manufacture of the drug. While purchasing large amounts of engine cleaner isn’t unlawful, it is now raising red flags in some areas of the state. Mayhugh planned to greet the buyer at the store if he shows up for the rest of his order and offer him a friendly word of warning against doing anything illegal. Monday, November 08, 1999 Evansville Courier & PressRelated Article:New Drug On the Rise In Southwest Michigan - 11/05/99
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