PLATTSBURGH — Meth-lab busts are rising, and everyone in the North Country is paying the price for this criminal activity.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, law-enforcement officials from the Adirondack Drug Task Force addressed the growing number of methamphetamine busts in the region.
“We have set a record in the state of New York this year for methamphetamine-lab seizures,” Drug Enforcement Agency Assistant Special Agent In-Charge James Burns said.
He said a total of 89 labs were seized statewide since Jan. 1, with eight of them found in or around the Plattsburgh area.
COSTS FOR CLEANUP
State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Capt. Robert LaFountain said trend spans the nation.
“This is not occurring just in Plattsburgh; it’s occurring throughout the area. It is very costly, not only to taxpayers but to the communities and the individual lives of the drug addicts,” he added.
Burns estimated about $5,000 to $10,000 in costs to citizens in order to safely decontaminate a methamphetamine lab once it is discovered.
“That’s just for the cleanup. That doesn’t count the overtime or the salaries of all of the personnel involved,” Burns said.
PUBLIC HELP URGED
All officials urged the public to be diligent and report any suspicious activity.
“We’ve got an issue that we are working diligently on as law enforcement, but it should be a concern of everybody that lives up here,” Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said. “It’s starting to impact many things, our environment and the people that are in our environment.”
He said it is even more important now for the public to become both the eyes and ears of law enforcement and report any suspicious activity.
JAIL, HEALTH EXPENSES
Favro also noted the exorbitant costs associated with incarcerating and treating individuals who are apprehended for using and cooking methamphetamine.
“When they go into jail environment, we end up having to pay for their health care. They get a higher level of health care than they’ve ever received before,” he said. “The health issues we see in a jail environment are astounding.”
In 2012, Favro said his department budgeted $475,000 to cover the cost of health care for incarcerated individuals, and they have already used up 75 percent of that.
“The problem is this is far beyond just a law-enforcement problem. It’s a community problem,” he added. “Every day, you are impacted by these labs and by these individuals.”
State Police BCI Lt. Brent Davison addressed another growing trend of overdoses associated with meth and other illicit drugs.
“We are facing the fast-rising meth problem in our area, and we still have to face all of the other issues that are going on, from property crimes that are caused by addictions to meth or other drugs,” he said.
While many of the overdoses are attributed to prescription-drug abuse, Davison said, methamphetamine is another drug that appears in toxicology reports in growing numbers.
All agencies vowed to continue to investigate and eradicate meth labs and users from the community.
The Plattsburgh City Police Department will now be able to track purchases of methamphetamine precursors with the help of new software called Leadsonline, which stores identification information of people buying possible ingredients nationwide.
“We can go into this program and we can tell you who’s now purchasing the precursors and if they met their legal limit and how many grams in a month, who has been turned down, addresses, phone numbers,” City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said.
“This is going to be a great resource for us.”
The software, he said, flags suspicious activity and alerts authorities nationwide when someone may be attempting to buy some of the household ingredients used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.
“It’s a pretty great tool that everyone is going to have now,” he added.
Despite the multi-agency manpower and funds, Favro said, police are still faced with serious costs that taxpayers must incur.
“Even though we have the innovation of Plattsburgh PD, State Police, Border Patrol, the Sheriff’s Department and the ability to utilize forfeiture funds to buy equipment, we still are facing some serious expense for staffing and for other issues that are not covered under those things,” he said.
“And again it will come out of taxpayer dollars.”
The Clinton County District Attorney’s Office, DEA, City Police, Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, Homeland Security Investigators and New York State Police comprise the Drug Task Force.
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