Meth overtakes coke in Garco |

Meth overtakes coke in Garco

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Data presented at the first public meeting of the Garfield County Methamphetamine Task Force showed the number of methamphetamine cases has overtaken the number of cocaine cases in the county.

“We’re seeing the barometric pressure rising with regards to meth and that a storm is coming,” Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney said. But people who filled the county commissioners’ meeting chambers Tuesday night hope to work proactively to fight the problem.

About five years ago, Glenwood Springs Police were surprised when they saw meth, Chief Terry Wilson said. Now, they’re surprised to see many crimes that don’t involve it.

Michael Gizzi of Mesa State College presented some results of initial data collected from 244 felony drug cases mostly from the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

The data showed 47 percent of the cases examined related to meth, 44 percent related to cocaine, 18 percent related to marijuana and 12 percent to other drugs. But authorities know that many other crimes are tied to meth use in some way. The most common crimes associated with it were traffic violations, DUIs, thefts, burglaries and an increasing number of weapons charges.

“People will do anything to get their fix,” Gizzi said.

There’s a lot more cocaine in Garfield County than in Mesa County, Gizzi said, where 89 percent of the felony drug cases were meth cases.

“You guys perhaps are still ahead of the game,” Gizzi said.

The average meth user in Garfield County appears to be a poorly educated white male. Anglos were involved in 80 percent of meth cases while cocaine cases were 67 percent Hispanic, which was about double the number of Hispanics involved in the overall number of cases looked at.

Cheney explained that the task force wants to fight the problem before it becomes worse. The plan is to build upon law enforcement by developing treatment and educating the public about the dangers of meth. This could include things like having someone who says they still crave meth almost daily years after quitting telling students about it.

Working on figuring out more about meth in the county and how to fight it will be ongoing, with the public invited to join the five task force committees.

Gizzi plans to interview jail inmates to gain more insight into the nature of use and the task force plans to continue collecting more data. People shared stories about meth addicts they know who seem to be completely different from the people they were before, losing the ability to experience pleasure. There was talk about the noxious chemicals used to manufacture meth and the dangers of cleaning up labs.

It was also said that meth labs seem to have gone away. Limiting sales of pseudoephedrine-containing cold medications used to manufacture meth have seemed to cause more trafficking from Mexico. Gizzi said the country imports about 10 times the amount of ephedrine it could possibly use legitimately.

A segment of a film called “The Meth Epidemic” was shown, displaying “before” and “after” pictures of meth addicts who kept getting arrested, compiled by an Oregon law enforcement agency. The shots show heavy users going from looking pretty good to looking like zombies.

“We can change this thing if we want to,” Cheney said. “We have the tools to do it, it’s just where are we going to go from here and how are we going to get there.”

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