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Dunn asking Congress to fund fight against methamphetamine

CARNATION _ Cocaine and crack, the drugs of choice for the


late 1980s and early '90s, have been replaced by a substance much


cheaper and easier to make. Using items found in convenience and grocery stores,


its makers can move quickly from city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood.


Possibly yours.


In the past few years, methamphetamine, also known as "crystal


meth," "ice" and a variety of other names,


has become a major problem for Valley law enforcement officials and the


King County Sheriff's Office. But a proposal currently before the U.S.


House of Representatives and the Senate could give Washington police


agencies more money to fight the rising tide of the drug's popularity.


Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., is pushing for more than $40 million


to be spent on police methamphetamine programs in Washington and


across the country. In the version before the Senate, the Washington State


Methamphetamine Initiative could receive $3 million out of $41.7 million. The


program proposed in the House is similar, but has an overall allocation


of $45.7 million, with the amount allocated to Washington State to be


determined.


To learn more about the methamphetamine problem, Dunn rode


along with Officer Bill Brown of the Carnation Police Department. The city


has a contract with the Sheriff's Office to provide law enforcement services.


"This whole issue has come into a lot of focus lately," Dunn said


about methamphetamine use. But she added that not everyone is aware of the


problem, saying, "Until (people) realize that this exists in their


community, they don't think about it at all."


Brown has seen the problem firsthand. For users,


methamphetamine, which can be snorted, injected or


ingested, "is the drug of choice. It works fast and gives them a lot of


energy," he said. He added that the drug can


be found in all segments of society.


"This can happen in any neighborhood _ nice neighborhoods and


bad neighborhoods," Brown said.


Because over-the-counter medications and other items can be used


to make the drug, it doesn't take a sophisticated production and


distribution system to get the drug to users.


"You don't need to be a chemist to make it," Brown said.


Methamphetamine labs have been found inside county homes and


cars transporting the items necessary to make the drug have been stopped


by sheriff's officers. Instructions on how to manufacture the drug can be


found on Internet sites.


Making the drug is dangerous and potentially deadly. When a


methamphetamine lab is found, police don hazardous-materials protective suits


to prevent being exposed to the toxic chemicals.


"It can explode in a house," Dunn said about the drug. "I think it's a


very big community safety issue.


"When officers go to the house and find out it's a meth lab, it's a very


dangerous place to be."


This year for the first time, King County sheriff's officers


receiving training about methamphetamine and the labs and chemicals used to


make the drug. Brown said even though officers are more aware of the


drug, sometimes that knowledge isn't enough to protect them.


"Before you know what happened, you're infected," he said of


officers beings exposed to the chemicals.


Dunn said a couple of things can be done to try and stem the flood


of methamphetamine use in communities and nationally.


"I think if there was a heavy pressure on people not to do drugs, I


think that would help at the national level," she said. Another way to combat


the problem is to build on already-successful drug programs.


"Instead of saying we need 100,000 new policemen, we should


be funding some of these programs that work," Dunn said.


Brown said any additional funding would be helpful.


"If there's money for training, it's going to help us all the way around."

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