(WDEF) Latest Report Says Tennessee is Still High in Meth, but McMinn County Sees Success, Continues Decline in Labs
Tennessee has recently been predicted to be high in meth labs again this year, but McMinn County, once #1 in the state, continues a 3-year reduction in meth labs since 2010. A new report released from the Tennessee State Comptroller's Office has McMinn County listed with 62 labs seized in 2012, compared with 161 in 2010. According to the report, McMinn County has dropped from #1 to #6 since 2010.
“In April, we were optimistic this would be the case,” said Sheriff Guy. “As we’ve said all along, we developed a two-pronged plan: attack the problem publicly with partnerships and education programs, and second to attack the problem on the street with aggressive enforcement.”
“We began immediately upon taking office in 2010 by putting anti-drug programs like DARE back into our schools. We followed that up with taking every opportunity to educate the public on meth production and the “one pot” or “shake and bake” methods, as well as how to recognize and report meth dumpsites.”
But, the Sheriff says that the county turned the corner on an innovative idea that developed out of necessity.
“The cost to clean up a meth lab in 2011 was an average of $3000, which was being taken care of by Federal EPA grants. We were notified in February of that year that the money was gone, and the cost to clean up labs was going to fall on local counties. It was a scary time for law enforcement budgets.”
“I immediately sat down with my command staff, who are some really bright people, and discussed what we could do. Any idea was on the table. Lt. Eric Allman said, ‘If we could just stop meth heads from buying pseudoephedrine.’ And we talked some more, and I said, ‘What if we just go to the pharmacists, and ask them to do just that, purely on a voluntary basis?’. And from that we developed the ‘100 Days of Pseudo-Free Tennessee’ that brought law enforcement and local pharmacists together in an effort to reduce availability of pseudoephedrine, then one necessary component to make meth. We partnered with our county Haz-Mat Team and our county landfill to handle meth trash without costing tax payers for the clean-up. Within a few weeks, we saw results in fewer meth labs being discovered.”
While local pharmacists continue to help reduce suspected meth makers from access to pseudoephedrine, Sheriff Guy also commented on the step-up in enforcement techniques.
“We have a pretty good record of enforcement in McMinn County, but it simply was not enough,” said Guy. “First, we trained all of our officers in better investigative techniques. Then we added specific “Crime Suppression” operations to target criminal activity. We developed a “Criminal Intelligence” plan to gather and act on information quicker. And we’ve worked with our local police departments in sharing information and supporting teach other’s efforts. We got the message out. Our informants say that word on the street is “Don’t make meth in McMinn County.”
Sheriff Guy is quick to credit the work of his officers along with local police departments, the McMinn County Commission, the county Haz Mat Team, local Pharmacists, local ministers, and a supportive community.
“We had pharmacists and doctors working with us, ministers organizing “meth marches”, and our State Senator Mike Bell and State Representative John Forgety educating themselves on our problem and our efforts,” added Sheriff Guy. “This is not just a success for local law enforcement, but for our entire county.”
While the numbers have dropped substantially, Guy recognizes meth and meth problems still exist. “It’s not totally beaten and like all drugs it may always be here at some level, but we’ve made some great strides in reducing it. Its a 50% decline since taking office in 2010, and this Sheriff’s administration is very proud of that.”