By Karl Terry: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Methamphetamine is described by law enforcement as the biggest social crisis today in America. Thursday at the Portales Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly luncheon, attendees learned more about the problem and a few easy ways to deter it in the community.
Capt. Lonnie Berry of the Portales Police Department described the social severity of the problem by asking the crowd to imagine a person being killed for a pack of cigarettes. He says that meth addicts can and have gotten just that far out of touch with reality.
Methamphetamine doesn’t discriminate, but occurs in all parts of the city — north, south, everywhere, said District Attorney Matt Chandler. “We’ve found it everywhere from crack houses to a preacher’s house in this area.”
Berry said he feels there are three pieces that go into solving the problem; law enforcement, mandatory sentencing and rehabilitation. Of those three facets, he says the one we’re doing the worst at is rehabilitation, quoting a success rate with meth addicts of just 4 percent nationwide.
“We’ve got to bring that percentage up,” said Berry. “We’ve got to do a better job on rehab.”
He told the group that while overdoses can occur with methamphetamine use, it is more common for users to instead suffer a slow debilitation over several years.
Berry said his department has made 65 arrests in the last four and a half months, and of that number, he was able to link 58 of those cases either directly or indirectly with methamphetamine.
“That’s a lot of meth out there, folks,” said Berry. “There are a lot of people affected by that. It’s not Mr. Chandler’s problem, it’s not law enforcement’s problem. It’s going to take the village.”
With budgets getting tighter for law enforcement groups like the Region V Task Force, of which Berry’s department is a member, he and Chandler are looking for creative ways to fight the problem.
Among those methods are a new ordinance recently passed by Portales City Council prohibiting sale of certain cold medicines.
Chandler and Berry urged the audience to watch for signs of meth labs by noticing strong odors similar to ether or cat urine, watch trash receptacles for large numbers of antifreeze and containers that are unusual, and to be aware of unusual activity at a neighboring residence or blacked-out windows.
“The bottom line is we need community help,” said Chandler. “Meth has started in rural areas and slipped into the cities. But I’m telling you it has a death grip on our nation. It’s the nucleus of all our crimes.
“If we can beat this problem you all are going to be a lot safer.”