HIDTA’S EFFORT AGAINST METHAMPHETAMINE
The results of the performance measurements for 2004 have left no doubts concerning HIDTA’s effectiveness in targeting, disrupting and dismantling major international, multi-state and local drug trafficking organizations. However, many leaders and citizens are equally concerned about the rising methamphetamine problem in various areas of this country. They want to know how the government is addressing the problem and if HIDTA is involved. This paper will attempt to answer those questions in a clear and concise manner using a question and answer format.
QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES:
Question: Does HIDTA address the methamphetamine distribution and manufacturing problem in this nation?
Response: Yes. HIDTA is the only national entity that has targeted the distribution and manufacture of methamphetamine in a comprehensive, coordinated and multi-faceted approach. HIDTA's efforts vary from dismantling small mobile labs to dismantling major international drug trafficking organizations primarily involved in the distribution of methamphetamine.
However, not all HIDTAs address the methamphetamine problem. It is not a major problem in all regions of the country. The uniqueness of the HIDTA Program is its ability to adapt to the regional drug threat. Half of the HIDTAs have identified a significant methamphetamine drug threat and have developed a strategy to combat the problem.
Question: Does HIDTA target drug trafficking organizations that distribute methamphetamine?
Response: Yes. Many of the drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are polydrug. They might traffic in cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin. However, there are drug trafficking organizations that primarily distribute methamphetamine. In 2004, the HIDTA Program dismantled or disrupted 744 drug trafficking organizations that were primarily engaged in distributing methamphetamine. In 2004, the HIDTAs were responsible for removing over 4 tons of methamphetamine and ‘ice’ with a wholesale value of approximately 80 million dollars from the streets of America. In 2004, the Appalachia HIDTA targeted 26 drug trafficking organizations dealing primarily in methamphetamine and was able to dismantle or disrupt 24. The North Texas HIDTA Northern Drug Squad initiated an investigation into a drug trafficking organization distributing methamphetamine which was approved as an OCDETF case and designated Operation White Mercury. This case involved not only the distribution of methamphetamine but the manufacturing of meth, including one “super lab” that the suspect admitted made over 100 pounds during a nine-month period. The case also involved the investigation and seizure of precursors and chemicals and resulted in the DTO being dismantled. The Gulf States HIDTA targeted and dismantled an Alabama drug trafficking organization distributing ‘ice.’ This investigation received the OCDETF Case of the Year Award for the middle district of Alabama.
Question: Besides the distribution of methamphetamine, is HIDTA involved in targeting the manufacturing of methamphetamine?
Response: Many of the HIDTAs have teams that specifically address the manufacturing of methamphetamine. In the HIDTAs that don’t have specific teams, many of their task forces are specially trained to handle dismantling clandestine lab operations. In the Midwest HIDTA, Nebraska has a clandestine lab response team and Kansas has a retail meth watch program as well as the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Enforcement Initiative, which handles clandestine labs. Midwest HIDTA also supports the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement Clandestine Laboratory Emergency Response Team. The Central Valley California HIDTA has two teams established to specifically address methamphetamine and clandestine labs. Northern California HIDTA also has a “clan lab-specific” team and Houston HIDTA has the Methamphetamine Initiative Group. The Nevada HIDTA has the Southern Nevada Joint Methamphetamine Task Force. Ohio HIDTA has the Akron/Summit County Methamphetamine Team. Arizona HIDTA has the Maricopa County Clandestine Methamphetamine Task Force which rescued 57 children from “meth labs.”
In 2004, HIDTA-supported task forces seized and dismantled 5,065 clandestine lab operations. These labs were capable of producing $51,742,002 worth of methamphetamine in just one “cook.” That is 51% of all labs seized throughout the nation in 2004 as reported by the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System (CLSS). These same HIDTAs were involved in locating and clearing 2,663 clandestine lab hazardous waste dumpsites (66% of all dumpsites nationwide), and seizing 1,703 partial clandestine labs (46% of the nation’s total).
Question: Does the HIDTA Program address the precursors and chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine?
Response: This is probably the cornerstone of the HIDTA domestic clandestine lab strategy. In 2004, the HIDTAs targeted 7,869 transactions of precursors and essential chemicals. In many states, the HIDTA Program has been instrumental in securing legislation tightening the control of precursors and essential chemicals. HIDTAs have been heavily involved in educating retailers about ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as it relates to the manufacturing of methamphetamine. HIDTA task forces identify and investigate suppliers of precursors and chemicals. The Midwest HIDTA’s Kansas Retail Meth Watch is designed to prevent and limit the sales of pseudoephedrine to manufacturers. Central Valley California HIDTA has a precursor vendor program that investigates suspicious precursor and essential chemical transactions. In 2004, 915 of those transactions were investigated. The Houston Methamphetamine Initiative Group has as one of its primary missions to target and arrest individuals and rogue chemical suppliers who are providing chemicals and laboratory equipment for the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine. The Northwest HIDTA funds and operates a methamphetamine hotline to allow citizens to assist law enforcement efforts regarding methamphetamine distribution, manufacturing and the sources for precursors and essential chemicals. These strategies have been effective in reducing the number of labs because of difficulties in securing the essential ingredients.
However, HIDTA’s primary weapon against the precursors and essential chemicals is funded out of the Southwest HIDTA California Border Alliance Group in San Diego. This HIDTA Program is the National Methamphetamine Chemicals Initiative (NMCI). This is a national anti-methamphetamine manufacturing strategy, intelligence-sharing and training initiative. The program funds three coordinators: one for California, one for Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico and the other for Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. NMCI has three primary missions:
- Work with its members to improve support of chemical investigations.
- Coordinate actual investigations.
- Promote information-sharing and law enforcement training.
The National Methamphetamine Chemicals Initiative has been instrumental in bringing law enforcement together through its regional meetings and national conferences to share information and plan strategies against the distribution and manufacturing of methamphetamine. NMCI played a key role in the pseudoephedrine controls implemented by Canada. They also played a key role in developing and instituting the National Clan Lab Seizure System located in El Paso, Texas. It was at one of the NMCI conferences held in Canada, along with Operation North Star, that gave rise to one of the larger cases involving a major Canadian supplier of pseudoephedrine to the United States.
Question: Training for these types of investigations, especially clandestine labs, is critical. Does HIDTA get involved in that aspect of the strategy?
Response: As indicated above, the National Methamphetamine Chemicals Initiative is involved in training, especially in the area of precursor/chemical investigations. Individual HIDTAs are responsible for much of the “clan lab” training in many of the regions. This training includes clandestine lab safety certification, recertification “clan lab” investigation, first responder and site safety officer courses. Without the training provided by HIDTA, many officers would have been unable to secure and dismantle clandestine labs safely and, in fact, would be in violation of OSHA regulations. Without training provided by HIDTA, many of the first responders would have no idea about the toxic and dangerous environment they have encountered. The Michigan HIDTA alone provided five clandestine lab safety certification courses and two site safety officer schools for their region. Rocky Mountain HIDTA developed its own “clan lab” safety certification school and offers four courses a year. Additionally in 2004, Rocky Mountain HIDTA, with the Colorado Regional Community Policing Institute (CRCPI), trained over 1,500 first responders and 3,000 citizens on the dangers of methamphetamine.
Question: Is HIDTA involved in the drug endangered children (D.E.C.) movement?
Response: The drug endangered children movement involving children found in methamphetamine labs was initiated in Butte County, California and has spread. The movement was sporadic and not well coordinated. In 2002, Rocky Mountain HIDTA initiated a statewide drug endangered children program which led to the Colorado Coalition for Drug Endangered Children. That program, along with California, Utah, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, formed under the umbrella of HIDTA’s National Methamphetamine Chemicals Initiative to coordinate and educate others about drug endangered children. These seven states along with HIDTA’s NMCI formed a national board and sponsored the first national drug endangered children conference held in Denver in 2004. Approximately 400 people attended, including thirty-eight states of the nation and two Canadian provinces. This resulted in the formation of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children.
President Thomas Gorman of the National HIDTA Director’s Association states, “What should be considered in making an informed decision about the proposed reduction of funds (57%) to the HIDTA Program and/or its move to DOJ is what this will mean to our country’s anti-methamphetamine strategy and effort. Based upon the information provided above, transfer or reduction of the HIDTA Program will severely restrict and limit America’s endeavor to combat the spread of methamphetamine production. That is not to imply other agencies are not fulfilling their role, but there is no entity that has played a more significant role in a coordinated federal, state and local strategy targeting all aspects of the methamphetamine problem in this country than HIDTA.”
Captain Baker of the Summit County Drug Unit in Ohio states, “With the overwhelming support of the Ohio HIDTA since its inception in 2001, I feel that the Akron/Summit County HIDTA initiative has become one of the most successful and productive initiatives in the nation. I believe that if we lose our HIDTA support, we are doomed. With our level of drug traffickers and our high number of methamphetamine labs, we cannot afford to go back where we were in the ‘90’s.”
Major Richard Townsend, Utah Department of Public Safety states, “The Rocky Mountain HIDTA Program is the main reason why the state of Utah is no longer one of the top-producing methamphetamine sites per capita in the entire country…”
Sheriff Aaron Kennard of Salt Lake County, Utah adds, “In the late 90’s, clandestine lab manufacturing methamphetamine was a major drug threat in the state of Utah… HIDTA has helped implement the strategy to provide training, information sharing, expertise, investigative and safety equipment and other resources. The results speak for themselves.”
Commander Lori Moriarty, North Metro Task Force, Colorado, states, “HIDTA served as a problem-solving facilitator to drug unit commanders in Colorado addressing the clandestine lab problem. During the latter six months of 2002, a comprehensive strategy was developed to address precursor chemical controls, drug endangered children, response protocols, hazardous site clean-up and training reporting to EPIC and enhanced legislation.”
Is there any question as to whether the HIDTA Program has effectively addressed this country’s methamphetamine problem?