STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL
Import of Methamphetamine From Mexico Offsets Local Progress
Friday, April 13, 2007
RICHMOND, April 12 -- Several of the nation's top law enforcement officials said Thursday that an influx of methamphetamine from Mexico is overshadowing their recent success in curtailing homegrown meth labs and is fueling a crime wave caused by addicts who can stay awake for days.
At a day-long conference devoted to the problem, attorneys general from Virginia, Maryland and six other states met to learn about the problem and share strategies for combating methamphetamine use and trafficking.
"I think my colleagues would agree it is probably the ugliest drug that has come down the pike in 40 years," said Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R), who hosted the conference. "It is highly addictive. It is poor man's crack."
Known by a variety of names, including crystal, ice and crank, the drug is usually made in makeshift labs because it is easily produced by mixing and cooking over-the-counter medicines and other household chemicals. The labs have been associated with increased crime and addiction rates in many rural communities.
But state and federal authorities say they have made significant progress in cracking down on those labs, in large part by approving laws restricting the sale of the products used to make the drug.
Now, however, they say, Mexican drug gangs have stepped in and are mass-producing the drug and smuggling it over the border. It often ends up in Atlanta, where it is then distributed to cities along the East Coast, the attorneys general said.
McDonnell estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the meth found in Virginia now comes from Mexico. The drug labs that once dotted rural Virginia are largely gone, he said.
But the crime associated with Mexican meth appears to be worsening, officials said.
Because the drug can keep users awake for extended periods of time, some people get bored and turn to computer crimes such as identity theft, law enforcement officials say. The drug is also linked to a surge in sex offenses, officials said.
And unlike crack users during the 1980s epidemic, which was largely confined to cities, meth users span all geographic, cultural and economic backgrounds, law enforcement officials say. A 2004 study estimated that 12 million Americans, about 5 percent of the population, admitted to using the drug.
"It is spread between rural areas, suburban areas and cities throughout all of our states," said Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D).
"If you are not seeing it in your state, hold on. It's coming," said Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker (D).
The attorneys general said they plan to work with the Bush administration to develop strategies for limiting the amount of the drug moving across the Mexican border. McDonnell said they would also look at "tough, rock-solid law enforcement strategies."
But in an acknowledgement that past get-tough approaches have not always worked, the attorneys general say they also want to push for more funding for drug treatment.
"Even as we are doing everything we can from the law enforcement aspect, we have a generation of addicts out there," said Kentucky Attorney General Gregory D. Stumbo (D). "We don't have adequate treatment facilities. We know how to put people in jail, but I think we all need to recognize there is more to this problem than incarceration."