Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann recently visited Clermont County to formally announce the beginning of a new campaign against methamphetamines.
The effort is taking the form of a pilot project being initiated in four different areas that will seek to attack the manufacture and distribution of meth in greater or different ways. The project will be funded by approximately $2 million in federal money that will be distributed between the four agencies involved.
“We’re very very grateful for this initiative,” said Clermont County Sheriff Tim Rodenberg. “This is what makes it work in Clermont County. We don’t do this on our own. We have had a lot of participation from other agencies. This is law enforcement officers from around the county, and that way they know the quirks of their jurisdiction, and some of the actors, good, bad and ugly. That allows for effective drug enforcement. It’s been good for us to have the teamwork. With the attorney general, what he has done since he’s been in office has been an incredible job for law enforcement in Ohio.”
Clermont County currently enjoys the partnership between several agencies in the fight against drugs, known locally as the Narcotics Task Force. Composed of agents from the Sheriff’s Office, Union Township, the Milford Police Department, Miami Township, the task force combines the manpower and physical resources of all the associated departments to tackle various drug issues in the county. This grant will prove a serious boon to their efforts, said Sheriff Rodenberg.
The Clermont portion of the grant, which is for approximately a quarter of the main $2 million grant, will go mainly to provide training and equipment for officers, as well as to create an educational campaign. The other agencies that received a quarter of the grant are the Highland County Sheriff's Office, the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Office and the city of Akron.
"We're here to announce the launch of the Ohio Methamphetamine Pilot Initiative," said Dann. "This type of crime fighting needs to be conducted on a multi-jurisdictional level. The important role the attorney general's office plays in coordinating those efforts is something we want to continue to grow."
Dann said that there have been increasing problems with meth in Ohio, but cited a number of positive trends and instances where good police work has helped curb the problem. Statewide, Clermont County has long been a focal point for the effort to curb meth use, having earned a reputation for having some of the highest numbers of arrests in the state. Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud said that the statistics don't prove that Clermont has a bigger problem with meth usage, but that the county has proven capable of finding more labs and distributors.
"Methamphetamine production is down because states have been very aggressive," said Proud. "The way they make this morphs. This grant will allow us to stay one step ahead of the people who make and distribute this. They are creative now, they are flavoring it to make it more attractive to young people. They market this as something to help you lose weight. Enforcement is vital against methamphetamine. Along with enforcement, this allows us to also include education and go to the schools."
Dann said that he hopes the new effort will eventually eliminate meth production altogether.
"This is a partnership that will help us impede, if not completely eliminate, the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine in the future," said Dann. "The partnership we're unveiling is funded through a nearly $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. These funds will be used to intensify the ongoing battle against meth in Ohio. I'm confident that the cooperation and pooling of resources will help us to make progress in what is literally a life and death struggle."
Dann said that community policing and public awareness efforts were key in destroying meth, which is created using a near lethal cocktail of chemicals, such as liquid drain cleaner and chemicals found in some batteries. In recent years, the state has enacted laws to limit the sales of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient, to fight meth production. With better training, Dann said that he expects to hear of more arrests made by law enforcement officers who know what to look for, such as a case recently where an officer saw a person buying ingredients in a store and followed them, setting the stage for two successful meth lab busts.
"The training matters," said Dann. "This will be what helps solve this in our state. It might not make big headlines, but we have a significant meth problem in the state of Ohio. There have been 234 incidents reported so far in 2007, and more than 1,500 since we started keeping track of it in 1998. Recently, we had contact with a 14-year-old meth addict. We all know that drug use spirals into a whole slew of other criminal activities. Here, they've handled over 500 cases, 65 percent of those cases were meth related crimes."
Sheriff Ron Ward of Highland County said that the problem in his area has been increasing, and echoed Sheriff Rodenberg's statements that $450,000 will allow local law enforcement to do more than was previously possible.
"We saw our first meth lab in 2001," said Ward. "We had heard about labs, but when they put the call in, we didn't know what to do with it. We've seen well over 100 labs in our county alone, and had labs where people have been killed. We've had several injured. It's a problem throughout the county and nation. We have to get ahold of this problem before it gets out of control."
All agreed that the effort was important, not just to prevent crime but to eliminate the economic and social costs of methamphetamines on the populace.
"So many of these labs have children in them, and a lot of times it's a family business," said Proud. "You can't place these children with family members. They have to go other places, which is not cheap. We spend over $1 million a year on that. Studies also show that treatment does work for meth addicts, but it takes a long time. In Ohio, reunification is one year. We're trying to work on that. The societal impact is large, and that's why these dollars are so vital."