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late 1980s and early '90s, have been replaced by a substance much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