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The meth problemPosted Friday, March 14, 2008, at 4:49 PM
A meth lab bust in Gilliam this week has gotten a fair amount of attention, and reactions range from disappointment that sheriff's deputies haven't busted all the other meth labs in the area to congratulations for getting the one they did.
I suppose it sometimes seems like we're shoveling sand while the tide comes in, our reputation being what it is.
But on March 1, the AP posted this story from the Columbia Tribune:
As with all statistics, you have to look closely because there may be more to the story than appears at first glance. For example:
(Click here for more information.)
It's still a disturbing picture. "Mom & Pop" meth labs are still meth labs, after all, and the effects of the drug are as bad if the stuff comes from a factory lab or a shed out back.
But it also suggests that the problem in Missouri is different than the big scare headline "Meth capital of the nation" might suggest. In some ways a bunch of little operations may be better. Sort of. Big operations of all kinds, legal and illegal, tend to have bigger, badder security measures. More guards. Bigger guns. Etc.
On the other hand, when law enforcement does manage to shut down a big operation, the effect is more dramatic. In one swoop they can put a dent (for a while) in the area drug trade.
Lots of little operations are like cockroaches. Stomping on one doesn't have much effect because there are a million more you can't see. So our law enforcement officers have to put in all the time of investigating drug labs but they don't get the same bang for their buck.
It's understandable that people in the area get frustrated with the inability of law enforcement to stamp out meth, but I think it's important to recognize the huge challenge they face and the near impossiblity of ever solving the problem completely.
Fortunately, the Missouri legislature is trying to help. In 2005, a new law was passed that made it harder for people making meth to last week a new law won approval from both houses that will attempt to improve upon the state's ability to track pseudoephedrine sales.
I saw Prosecuting Attorney Don Stouffer speak to a group last year, and he said the 2005 had been very useful for law enforcement. Perhaps the new law will give officers another boost in their efforts to battle meth production.
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Eric Crump is the editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He's listening to Bob James right now.
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