Methamphetamine was an extraordinarily prevalent topic in 2004.
And not just because of meth-related arrests, but because of community action taken to combat the drug some said reached epidemic stature this past year.
Crow Wing County spearheaded several initiatives. Along with continued efforts of the Lakes Area Drug Investigative Division to make arrests, shut down meth labs and keep the public informed, the Crow Wing County Board adopted ordinances requiring cleanup of meth labs to be paid for by the landowners and mandating businesses to put certain drugs or products related to methamphetamine manufacturing behind counters. The county board also appointed board chairman Terry Sluss as the county's methamphetamine prevention coordinator.
A suspect was arrested on a meth related charge at a Baxter hotel last spring. Brainerd Dispatch/File photo
Most recently, the county board decided to hire in 2005 an additional LADID officer full time at a cost of $70,000 and increase clerical assistance with a projected budget of $30,000. Another $80,000 to $100,000 of the meth budget is earmarked to hire a full-time meth prevention coordinator for 12 months and to help pay for programming. The city of Baxter also set money aside in its budget to hire an officer for the LADID.
The public also got involved. Forums throughout the Brainerd area often were packed with people looking for more information on how to identify meth labs and seeking facts on what damage the drug can do.
Along with smaller lab and possession arrests, Crow Wing County law enforcement officials made two large meth busts in 2004. In March, Baxter police officers seized 260 grams of meth, which had a street value of about $26,000, and arrested three people at a Baxter hotel. In August, officers from the LADID seized 463 grams of meth with a street value of more than $100,000 and arrested three people in a Maple Grove Township drug bust.
At the county board's Dec. 14 meeting, Sluss said the increase in publicity is having an effect. He pointed to a slowdown in meth lab busts. The jail population with inmates related to meth dropped recently from 40 percent to 20 percent, Sluss said.
"Are we on top of the problem? Probably not, but we are definitely having an impact," Sluss said during a December county board meeting.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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