OSWEGO, NY – Flanked by nearly a dozen Oswego city and county law and fire personnel, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer today (Nov. 22) announced a new effort to fight back against the growing scourge of crystal meth use and mobile production labs.
Speaking in the Legislature Chamber at the Oswego County Building, Schumer presented a “one-two punch” plan to curb the flow of meth production, sales and consumption in Central New York, specifically Oswego County.
The senator called for more federal and private assistance to combat the meth problem in the wake of a series of lab busts over the last several weeks, including a mobile lab bust on Sunday afternoon in the Port City.
It could mean in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for area law enforcement, Schumer said.
“Over the past year, Oswego County and the cities and other law enforcement have stepped up their efforts to combat drug crimes in our communities,” County Administrator Phil Church said. He thanked the senator for pushing for more help for the county.
He noted the recent high-profile drug arrests made by the county and Oswego City police and the legislature’s hard stance against synthetic drugs.
The county this year has re-established its Drug Task Force, he added.
“Our efforts have not gone unnoticed,” he said. “Senator Schumer has come here today to announce a new federal initiative which may provide some assistance here to Oswego County. So we are very happy to welcome him.”
“Now, we all know about meth. It is a terrible, terrible drug. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, taken orally – meth is psychologically addictive,” Schumer said. “Users become paranoid and unpredictable. It is so bad that if taken orally, it actually destroys your mouth.”
“The disturbing trend of increased meth use is something the brave men and women standing here with me know very well,” he continued. “Oswego County does a very good job locally in trying to go after meth; it is a hard drug to go after because it can be so easily made and made just about anywhere.”
It isn’t like certain other drugs that have to be imported, he said.
Law enforcement should do everything it can to curb the problem, before it gets out of control, the senator said, adding he’d do his part to ensure they have the needed resources.
“It’s as simple as this: one speck of meth in our Central New York community is one speck too much!” he proclaimed.
Standing with local law enforcement officials, Schumer called on the New York and New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area group and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to add Oswego County to the list of counties eligible to receive additional federal resources to fight back against meth production and consumption.
The designation would help put more resources behind the county’s drug task force, he said. HIDTA works with local authorities to assess the drug problem in the region, designs specific initiatives; they know what has worked in other places and they share that information and “best news of all” they help pay for some of the resources, Schumer explained.
Law enforcement in the county is doing a great job fighting the war on drugs, “they are giving it everything they’ve got,” Schumer said, adding, “The designation would give them more.”
Also, he said he’s like Oswego County and all of Central New York to benefit from The Meth Project. It’s a private national group that partners with individual states.
They would help to raise awareness of the dangers of crystal meth and partner with New York State to eradicate its use by getting the word out to kids through public service announcements and educational programming.
He said he will encourage New York State to apply to the project and have Central New York as the site where it is implemented.
Young children are one of the favorite targets of meth dealers, the senator said.
“So, we need education. It’s very important,” Schumer said.
A partnership could lead to public service announcements, private marketing campaigns, and community action programs that will increase the amount of information available to Central New Yorkers regarding the dangers of crystal meth.
“With the number of methamphetamine busts and arrests on the rise in Central New York, the time is now to crack down and to stop the dangerous spread of crystal meth in its tracks,” Schumer said. “This devastating drug can literally rip our families and communities apart – we can’t let that happen. It is clear that Oswego County and all of Central New York need additional federal and private assistance in fighting back against both production and consumption before this trend reaches epidemic proportions.”
Besides Church, Schumer was joined by Oswego County District Attorney-elect Greg Oakes, Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd, City Police captains David Lizotte and Michael Beckwith, Oswego Police Chief Tory DeCaire, Oswego Fire and HAZMAT Chief, Jeff McCrobie, firefighters and police officers as he announced his push to crack down on methamphetamine production and use in Central New York.
Also present were Oswego Mayor Randy Bateman and mayor-elect Tom Gillen as well as several legislators.
The senator thanked Bateman for the good job he has done as mayor and said he looks forward to working with Gillen.
Specifically, Schumer is urging the New York and New Jersey HIDTA group and the ONDCP to add Oswego County to the group of counties, eligible for additional resources in the fight against methamphetamine presence in the region.
Just this week, Oswego police arrested four people in connection with this past Sunday’s mobile meth lab bust in Oswego.
Police received a tip about illegal drug activity in a local parking lot and pulled a vehicle over to find materials inside that are used in the production of methamphetamines.
“Aside from the fact that this was happening right here in everyone’s back yard, what was particularly disturbing was the fact that a small child was in the car where this illegal and potentially combustible drug-making took place,” the senator pointed out.
Additional information led police to an apartment at 3 Mary St., where they reportedly found more evidence of methamphetamine production.
Schumer noted two other incidents of meth consumption and production in Oswego County within two weeks in October. The first occurred in Williamstown on Oct. 3, where a man was found to have the necessary paraphernalia to produce meth in his single-family home. In the second incidence on Oct. 12, a Mexico resident was found to have a small meth producing operation in her home.
“Unfortunately,” Schumer said these incidents “may just be the tip of the iceberg.”
In light of such examples, Schumer noted the volatility of the ingredients and danger of meth-making, not only for those involved in the illegal activity, but also innocent children in the home and neighbors that live in close proximity to these labs.
Neither incident was found to be an extremely large operation on its own, Schumer said. But the ingredients are very dangerous and one wrong move can create a large fire and explosion putting innocent children and neighbors at risk, he added.
The repeated meth-related arrests, over such a short period of time, suggest a large and dangerous trend in Central New York.
“We have to put a cap on this trend,” he said. “The best thing to do when there is a trend in any kind of drug use it to try and stamp it out as quickly as possible. When you let something fester, it gets worse. When you do what we’re doing here in Oswego County, going after it as quickly as possible, you can stop it before it becomes too embedded in the community.”
“I couldn’t agree with Sen. Schumer any more. I think the biggest problem we have here is the fact that we are a rural area and the meth dealers are being driven out of the city because of task forces and the smells that comes from ‘cooking’ the products that you need are much less noticeable up her in a rural area. The fires that we’ve had, the fire departments know these are very dangerous vapors that are being used to create these fast-burning fires; people can be severley hurt or killed,” Sheriff Todd said. “The guys in the field, our deputies, the patrol officers here, they are the ones that are getting these tips, getting the information. These are the people we need to continue to get this information and be able to make these raids and take this off our streets. Again, one life is way too many to lose.”
Under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and the ONDCP Reauthorization Act of 2006, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is authorized to declare areas that exhibit serious drug trafficking problems as HIDTAs following the successful petition by groups of local law enforcement.
HIDTA-designated counties comprise approximately 14 percent of U.S. counties, and exist in 45 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Schumer noted that Onondaga County is already designated as a HIDTA, and it is clear that Central New York as a whole needs more federal and private assistance to combat its meth problem.
Based on recent events, Schumer is urging that Oswego County be added as an eligible county for this federal assistance, so that this disturbing and growing trend can be stopped in its tracks.
The mission of the HIDTA program is to disrupt the market for illegal drugs in the United States by assisting federal, state, and local law enforcement entities to dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking organizations – with an emphasis on drug trafficking regions that have harmful effects on other parts of the United States.
Since 1990, 28 regions in the United States, comprising 14% of U.S. counties, have been designated as HIDTAs and are eligible to receive targeted funding through the program.
A HIDTA is regarded as a coordinating umbrella for federal, state and local agencies. Once ONDCP, in consultation with a number of government officials such as the Attorney General, designates a region as a HIDTA, the region can receive federal money to help local law enforcement clamp down on illegal drugs transported through those counties.
The HIDTA’s Executive Board, based in New York City, then allocates funding in order to fight drug trafficking most effectively.
Law enforcement organizations within HIDTAs assess drug trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to reduce or eliminate the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution and chronic use of illegal drugs and money laundering. Through a combination of joint initiatives and resource and information sharing, the HIDTA program helps improve the effectiveness of drug control efforts.
In the coming weeks and months, Schumer will work with the New York and New Jersey HIDTA and the ONDCP in support of Oswego’s anticipated application to join the group.
Schumer is also pushing The Meth Project foundation to begin a “New York Meth Project” as they have done in numerous other states.
The Meth Project was established in 2005 in response to the growing Meth epidemic in the U.S.
The Meth Project partners with states and is a large-scale prevention program aimed at reducing Meth use through public service messaging, public policy, and community outreach.
Central to the program is a research-based marketing campaign and community action programs designed to communicate the risks of Meth use.
This privately funded program has already partnered with Georgia, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois and Wyoming, and Schumer is asking The Meth Project to select New York as a new partner.
Schumer’s request of The Meth Project to partner with New York comes as many communities in Central New York have seen serious incidence of methamphetamine use, including the operation of mobile methamphetamine labs in Oswego.
Schumer applauds The Meth Project for its critical work in educating individuals and larger communities of the extreme physical dangers, as well as financial and social effects that methamphetamine can have on its users, and urges the Project to expand its work in New York.
If The Meth Project began to help tackle New York’s meth problem, the group would conduct survey research across the state to understand patterns of meth use, and attitudes and behaviors towards the drug.
The research would draw on six years of experienced research in other states that has surveyed 50,000 individuals and 112 focus groups in consultation with research experts.
The group would then launch an integrated campaign including messaging on all types of media including TV, newspapers, radio, online, mobile and social media campaigns that clearly highlight the dangers of meth use.
“This plan would be a one-two punch to fight back against this glaring and growing problem,” Schumer said. “If the last month is any indicator, we don’t have a moment to lose. If we can save one life, if we can prevent one person following meth right off the cliff, it’s going to be worth it. And, I’m sure we’re going to do a lot more than that.”