Credit: ianbesler.blogspot.comKyle and Hansell (2005) conducted a survey to determine the extent of meth effects on the peace and order of two states, California and Florida. The highlights include a total of 87% of the total respondents of law enforcers stating that there was an 87% increase in meth related arrests in Southeast U.S. Respondents included law enforcers directly involved in fighting the Meth problems. There was also 58% who considered methamphetamine as their most pressing problem.
The survey also revealed an increase in crimes in different counties as a direct result of meth use. There was a 62% increase in domestic violence, and 53% increase in simple assaults. There is also an alarming increase in child related violence and abuse as a result of meth use. The survey revealed that 40 percent of the children in welfare were victimised by people using meth and that in the last five year, 70 percent of the responding counties that people are losing their homes because of meth addiction.
It is important to note that the research was a survey. What would have been more useful is data analysis. Again, there is no centralized system that tracks meth related crimes.
Florida is identified as a major distribution station of meth from other countries to the U.S. (see figure 1). It is transported in huge volumes by drug trafficking organizations in Latin countries usually through Southwest Border of California. Certain states and counties are then tapped to be the major distribution center on surrounding States. For Southeast of the US, Florida is a major drop off point.
The recognition of Florida as a major meth distributor has inspired the organic growth of the industry in Florida. Lately, labs in Florida is growing (figure 2). There was a decrease in 2006 and 2005 but further reports revealed it steadily increased starting 2008 (OSC 2011). Crystal meth, the purest kind, is dopped in Atlanta and then converted to powder or other forms with lesser quality to be distributed throughout Southeast U.S. This resulted to some reports about heightened meth activities in clubs and other areas often a hang out place by young people. Majority of these labs are small-scale, often operating only in basements and trailer trucks.
Despite all these reports, data that would coherently explain the connection between meth and violent crime has been hard to obtain. The Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey released some data on violence and school youth but the study is concentrated only on school youth. There were absolutely no data on how meth and violence are connected among the adult population. This inspired Florida’s State Epidemiology Workgroup (SEW) to gather more data that would comprehensively relate meth and violent crimes. However, that is still underway.
The SAMH was able to track determine prison admissions in Florida that is related to Meth (See Figure 3). The data shows the steady increase in admission rate. The data came from the DCF admission data and the data points to Florida following the national methamphetamine admission rate.
Alabama stated that Meth is their state’s biggest threat even with marijuana being the most popular, in terms of consumption, drug of choice. The concern came from the significant increase of reports attributing many meth labs in the rural areas like Jackson, Marshall, Etowah, Madison, Houston, Baldwin, DeKalb, and Walker counties. Meth has surpassed Cocaine in popularity.
Alabama’s law enforcement claims that meth is the responsible for the increase of violent crime rates in rural areas of Alabama. It is supported with statistics from EPIC that shows the rise or reports crediting meth for the crimes committed like violent assault and burglaries (NAC, 2006). They further reported that even children are not spared with 3.2% of 12 years old and below children are already using meth. On the other hand, those that are legal, 18 to 25 to be specific, are also using, 2.8% of them to be exact. High school students are also using, 7.3% of them are on meth and these resulted to 32% federal drug cases in the state. This is consistent with the increase on reported arrests for offenses related to Meth.
The Alabama put in place a law that would require stores to track down people buying substances that may be used to cook meth. They started using it in 2010. The system doesn’t track everyone buying it but only those who are buying in large amounts. Once the product is punched, it sends a signal to law enforcement which gives law enforcement the right to question the buyer (SAMHSA 2008). Alabama limits the amount of ephedrine one person can buy to six grams and it cannot be sold to minors (RLE 2011).
It is just important to note that the stats provided above does not appear on the reports provided by DEA or other state documents.
Like the Florida and Georgia, it is tricky to assess the link between meth and violent crimes in Georgia because the State does not specifically analyse the roles of meth in its violent cases. The Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) includes Meth related crimes to its general drug related records which includes the most popular illegal drug of choice, Marijuana, and cocaine.
To obtain some sense of analysis, bits and pieces of narrative reports and it revealed that meth related arrests increased by 132 percent in the last five years. There was a decrease in 2005 is actually consistent with the decrease of arrests in general. The GCIC, however, does not include reports of child offenders or juvenile processed as adults simply because they are not authorize to keep records of underage offenders. Even the Department of Juvenile Justice also does not keep the statistics on the specific drug used in crimes committed by children.
DEA, however, reported increase of offenders entering prisons on drug related offenses, meth in particular. In 2005, 2,224 people were admitted to prison because for crimes related to meth or because of meth (See Figure 4 and Figure 5). It leads to meth-related prisoners occupying It is important to note that there are 49 counties that did not report any admissions in their prisons related to meth. To date, no data is available to prove that the data is inaccurate which would force the state to assume there are no meth related crimes in those counties.
The DEA also reported the threat of Meth to the state of Mississippi. According to their reports, meth is most popular among lower to lower middle class among Caucasians. There are also reported small labs that buy crystal meth in large volumes and covert it to powder for mass distribution in Mississippi. Most of these operations happen in rural areas. Oddly enough, crystal meth is delivered through commercial packages like FEDEX and UPS.
Victims include children younger than 12, with 3.7 percent of the Mississippi population from this age group being meth users. The users on the 18-25 population are lower at 1.9 percent. Those that are between 12 to 18 have 0.8 percent rate of users. Among Mississippi’s high students, 7 percent are meth users.
Since 2005, Rural Law Enforcement reported that ephedrine and other substances that are used to cook Meth have been heavily regulated and transactions are tracked. Stores are also required to set up a system that would track the large amount of ephedrine purchases. Purchase over the “normal” amount is automatically reported to the station. Normal is limited to 6 grams per transaction and no person may purchase more than 9 grams in a 30 days. The law also requires a prescription from a physician.
Meth is fast overtaking Marijuana as the drug of choice among drug users in Louisiana because there are also many dealers. Like other states in Southeast U.S., meth is sold in smaller volumes. The state law enforcement agency notes that there is a direct relationship between meth use and violent crimes but keeps or tracks no records of how many reported crimes are meth related. Crime records are tracked according to crime, not according to causes or influences.
Louisiana also put in place a much stricter policy to fight meth. A full year before Mississippi, Louisiana allowed the sale of ephedrine and other substance used to cook meth to be sold only on accredited drug stores. They also monitor the sale of this drug and the law enforcement agencies are allowed access to the records of these transactions. The reporting is real time and the police may exercise the option of the questioning the person buying the substance immediately. This resulted to the decrease of reported meth labs as per the DEA.
The most significant finding of this research is the lack of centralizes effort to understand how meth is actually influencing society through the commission of violent crimes. Science, physiological and psychological, has proven that methamphetamine induces violent behaviour and destroys the mind and body of the user. However, those are raw data that does not serve a purpose unless applied.
In this case, there is a strong theoretical link but the lack of actual data makes it hard to establish an actual causation.
The government has never been shy about its commitment to fight drugs but for the efforts to be effective, drugs like methamphetamine should not be studied in isolation. Drug seizure and increase of the number of drug users must be studied and analysed in relation to the crimes it causes among other issues.
Law enforcement is in the best position to gather this data. Every state are has a sheriff’s office that can shed light on the exact impact of methamphetamine. When crimes are reported, there should be a conscious effort to determine what kind of drug caused or influenced the crime if there is any. These data must then be interpreted and from it, steps and policies may be recommended to stop the drug related violent crimes.
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