Methamphetamine manufacturing and its addiction have become the single worst epidemic in our communities.

“Washington is ranked as one of the highest states in numbers of meth labs busted. Kitsap and Pierce counties are at the top of the list,” stated state Rep. Pat Lantz in response to the question of the importance of a public forum on meth, held in April.

Safe Streets Campaign and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department hosted the Meth Forum at Key Peninsula Middle School on April 2. About 60 people attended the forum, which included a workshop and information booths.

Dennis Taylor of Safe Streets kicked off the forum with a presentation of Key Peninsula programs designed to fight the growing meth labs in the neighborhoods. Members of TEAM (Teens Empowered Against Meth) were introduced. In addition to educating their peers about dangers of meth addiction, their goals are focused on working with the state Legislature to have meth-related ingredients, such as certain cold medicines, removed from the shelves at stores and placed under lock prior to a sale. They are also targeting the removal of drug paraphernalia from the smoke shops.

Lt. Larry Bauer of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Peninsula Detachment, encouraged a law enforcement and community partnership. Bauer explained the coverage on the peninsula and efforts being made to organize neighborhoods to work with the department to solve the local problems.

“I can pull … the Department of Health and other drug enforcement agencies to assist us in solving these problems. We encourage everyone to organize and participate to rid your area of the meth lab problem,” Bauer said.

The other speakers emphasized how meth addiction is closely related to much of the crime on the peninsula. Ron Evans, from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Unit, discussed the importance of the formation of Block Watch groups like Citizens’ Patrol. Detective Michael Ames illustrated how identity theft and mail theft are commonly occurring due to meth activity. Deputy Tom Olesen with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, educated the audience on how to recognize meth labs and paraphernalia, and Daniel Bissonnette, executive director of A Chance To Change, discussed how to identify the signs and symptoms of drug use in youth.

Exhibits and information booths represented some of the agencies that are partners in the fight against meth. The Washington State Department of Corrections, U.S. Postmaster, Pierce County Neighborhood Action Team, Pierce County Juvenile Court, Key Peninsula Community Services, and the Olalla Recovery Center were just a few of the agencies present to answer questions and explain their work to fight methamphetamine and the crimes relating to the addiction.

“For a three-and-a-half-hour commitment, it was a good turnout. We were pleased,” Taylor said, adding that the forum was the first of many other public outreach activities planned by the Key Peninsula Crime Prevention Task Force. “This is an important step in educating the public on the dangers of meth… but education without action will do no good,” he said.

 

Hugh McMillan contributed to this article.

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