Missouri No. 1 in Meth

(U-WIRE) COLUMBIA, Mo. – To combat Missouri’s methamphetamine problem, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., announced on Wednesday the Missouri Sheriffs’ Methamphetamine Relief Team (MOSTMART) will receive more than $2.4 million in federal dollars for the 2003 fiscal year. “It is a critical battle that we can’t afford to lose,” Bond spokesman Ernie Blazar said. “We are losing lives.” Blazar said federal funding will help state law enforcement fight the growing problem. “The fight against meth is an expensive one, and our local law enforcement cannot carry the load alone,” Bond said in a statement. “These dollars are a down payment and will help our sheriffs continue the fight.” MOSMART officials had complained a lack of state funding had severely crippled their attempts to battle the statewide meth problem. “Many of the counties involved with MOSMART have a hard time keeping fuel in their vehicles, let alone having enough resources for personnel to use them,” said Sheriff John Jordan, MOSMART project director, in a press release. Ken Kreigh, supervisor of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department Drug Enforcement Unit, said although other areas in Missouri have seen a much higher rise in meth production, Boone County has seen a sizable increase in lab seizures during the last five years. “It’s a growing problem,” Kreigh said. “It’s not an epidemic, but we’ve definitely seen an increase in meth. Five years ago we didn’t see any. Now we are seeing a fairly significant amount, so we are concerned.” Kreigh estimates there have been 16 meth labs seized by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department so far this year. In all of 2002, only nine seizures were reported. The Boone County Sheriff’s Department attributes the rise of meth production to the ease and inexpensive cost of its materials, most of which can be purchased legally. Missouri’s location in the middle of the United States, the large number of small towns, its rural makeup and the number of interstate highways has helped it become the “meth capital of the country,” according to a statement released by Bond’s office. The MOSMART network that will receive the funds has 16 regional drug task forces and 46 Sheriff’s Departments statewide. Established in 2000, the network has received nearly $7 million to combat meth during the last three years. In 2001, MOSMART reported the seizure of 1,235 meth labs and the arrests of 2,239 people for either manufacturing, attempting to manufacture or possessing meth. Last year those numbers rose to 2,172 seized meth labs and 4,824 people arrested for meth-related offenses. “A lot of people cook meth out in the middle of nowhere so they can’t be seen, but we have pharmacies on the lookout, receipts with their names on it,” MOSMART spokeswoman Karen Gramlisch said. “We’re going to track them.”