Cops forced to go it alone on meth cleanups E-mail
Written by APB Staff   
There's never been a more destructive drug than methamphetamine. It destroys both those who use the narcotic and the areas where it's manufactured.

Kansas City P.D. Sgt. Tim Witcig knows all about meth and the impact it has on public safety. He also knows just what kind of disaster is looming on the horizon after Congress decided earlier this year to eliminate funding to clean up methamphetamine labs.

Law enforcement agencies just don't have the kind of funds required for meth lab clean-ups. As a result, local law enforcement depended heavily on federal help in terms of funding to get the job done. That help is no longer forthcoming, and Witcig and his team are doing the best they can to pick up the slack.

In the Missouri counties of Clay, Platte, and Cass, meth lab cleanups are now handled by the Kansas City PD's Metro Meth Task Force, Witcig said. He supervises the task force, which gets its funding from local and state sources.

"We now have more people calling on us," he said. "They might have done it on their own before, but now it is on us."

The Drug Enforcement Administration, an agency that has taken no losses in terms of funding, made a paltry $11.2 million available to local law enforcement for lab cleanups last year, according to Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman.

As most officers are aware, the chemicals left behind in meth labs are extremely volatile. Clean up crews require special training and Hazmat gear. Making matters even more challenging, police agencies also must comply with federal environmental standards when disposing of the materials.

If you ever wondered why Congress has about the same approval rating as a venereal disease, consider this. After years of steady progress made by local law enforcement to battle methamphetamine production and lower numbers in terms of labs found and other measures like ER visits and overdose deaths, the numbers are now going the other way.

Last year, Missouri reported 1,917 meth lab "incidents," in which labs or materials were seized or dumpsites were found. That was up from 1,761 the year before, according to the DEA. And the real numbers could be a lot higher.

It's not hard to understand why meth is making a comeback with Congressional assistance. Many local law enforcement agencies have scaled back efforts to bust meth labs because they can no longer afford to clean up the toxic messes.

"It has come to the point where we do not have investigators trained to handle meth labs," Capt. Paul Carrill of the Platte County Sheriff's Department told reporters with the Kansas City Star. Without the Metro Meth Task Force, he said, "we would have nobody to do it." The task force consists of three police officers, two civilians, a Clay County sheriff's deputy and one member of the Missouri National Guard. It also has two civilian workers whose job is to help with the lab cleanups.

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