Fighting Meth in Sublette County
"You know someone who is using meth." - SCSO Sheriff Hank Ruland
"As long as you have the demand, there will be a supply." - SCSO Sheriff Hank Ruland.
Anonymous Tip Reporting Line: 1-800-847-8763 ext 367
4th Meth Forum by SCSO
by Dawn Ballou
April 2, 2005
The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) held the 4th of a series of Meth Forums in Pinedale last week to help educate the public on the methamphetamine drug situation in Sublette County.
"We need your help," said Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland. "These are your neighborhoods. We really need the eyes and ears of the public out there helping us. We do the heavy lifting, but we need the community’s help."
The focus of the presentation was to help educate the public on what meth looks like and things to watch for to help encourage community policing. "This is a neighborhood problem," emphasized Ruland. Officers were on hand to answer questions and explain items on a display table showing samples of meth, marijuana and drug paraphanalia.
Methamphetamine is an odorless, bitter-tasting, white crystalline chemical. It can be ingested orally, smoked, snorted or inhaled. Injecting or smoking product the quickest and most intense rush. A stimulant, meth attacks the central nervous system to create a feeling of pleasure and enhanced euphoric effects which can last up to 24 hours. The drug may be sold as a powder, crystals or rock-like chunks. Color varies from white, yellow, brown, gray, orange and pink. Street terms include Rock, Mexican Crack, Getgo, Chalk, Beannies, Chicken Feed, Crink, Tick Tick and other terms. Currently, the street value of 1 gram of meth, about the amount of a coffee sugar packet in a restaurant, is about $175-$200 in Sublette County.
"The perception is it is all people from the oil field who moved into town using meth," said Sheriff Ruland. "It is not just one class of people. There are people who live here who have used it for years. The people you least expect are the ones using it. You know someone who is using meth." According to the Wyoming Department of Health’s Substance Abuse Division, as many as 10,000 people are meth users in Wyoming. The Casper Chief of Police gave a more chilling estimate, one in every 20 state residents.
The incidence of meth drug labs in Sublette County is on the rise as prices for the drug continue to rise. According to the SCSO, approximately 2% of meth in Wyoming is manufactured in the state. The rest comes here from Mexico, much of which is 98% pure ‘ice’. Distribution lines include Salt Lake City and Ogden coming up the I-80 corridor to Rock Springs and Green River.
Meth labs can vary dramatically in size and output. A small meth lab can be small enough to fit in a box or a backpack. Law enforcement officers combating the meth problem have seized drug laboratories at private residences, commercial properties, motel rooms and outdoor facilities. Meth labs can be anywhere. In Wyoming, labs have been found next to an elementary school in Casper and out of a motel room in Rawlins, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
In 2004, there were 102 drug-related arrests in Sublette County, compared to 153 Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests. The SCSO currently has three drug dogs that assist officers on drug-related calls and searches. The canine units assist with searches of vehicles, buildings and schools.
Members of the public asked many questions during the session, including what are some of the physical signs to look for if you suspect someone is using meth. The 'deer in the headlights look' is one sign. Aggressive behavior, long periods of time without sleep, ‘tweaking’ or incessant picking of the arms or legs to the point of creating open sores, fixating on one activity for long periods of time (computer games, cleaning at odd hours). During the crash phase of the cycle of being on meth, it is not uncommon for someone to sleep for long periods of time, 1-3 days.
Chemicals used to make meth are extremely toxic, unlike those in marijuana or cocaine, which are natural plant products. Meth has chemicals such as lye, battery parts and drano, which stay in the system and cannot be processed. It is extremely toxic and addictive. Because of the harmful effects on the body, people using meth will eventually have weight loss and malnourishment. "If the drug doesn’t get you or the high doesn’t get you, then the chemicals that stay in your system will," said Sheriff Ruland.
When asked about meth use and juveniles, County Attorney Van Graham commented that most of the cases he sees in court involving minors with drugs is marijuana, not meth. "Marajuana is cheaper and more readily available to youth." Drug use by juveniles is growing, he said.
SCSO Detective Jim Whinnery had suggestions for things rental property owners could be on the watch for if they suspected meth lab activity on their property. One tip was to keep an eye on the garbage since meth labs often result in excessive amounts of trash, with chemical containers common. If you notice matchbook strikers (for the red phosphorous needed) or pyrex dishes with white powder in the garbage, these are possible signs of someone making meth. One of the ingredients in the process includes iodine, so finding coffee filters or pieces of cloth that are stained red or orange stains on the carpet or walls of apartments, could be from iodine used in the cooking process.
Chemicals used in meth labs are extremely hazardous. Law enforcement officers caution anyone suspecting meth use or a lab should contact authorities rather than take action themselves. Chemicals used to produce meth can cause serious burns if they come into contact with the skin. Exposure to vapors and gasses can cause serious respiratory problems. People in the vicinity of a meth lab are at extreme risk due to the highly volatile nature of the chemicals used from fire or explosion. Many meth laboratories are equipped with security devices or booby traps that can cause serious injury or death.
Anyone who has information about drugs or criminal activity can report the information through the Anonymous Tip Line: 1-800-847-8763 ext 367. Ruland said officers check the phone tip line daily, and callers cannot be traced. He emphasized that information must be accurate and verifiable.
For concerned people who wish to seek help for a friend or family member, SCSO officers stress that their goal is to help people who are victims of drugs, not put them in jail. "The objective of our game is not to put everyone who does drugs in jail," said Ruland. "We will get them help." In Pinedale, contact High Country Counseling and Resource Center for drug treatment information, 307-367-2111. For more information about meth in Wyoming on the web, go to www.freeandtrue.com.