DOJ Meth Webcast And Satellite Broadcast Centers On Localized Partnerships
Thousands Tune In to Learn How Law Enforcement and Communities Can Work Together To Share Meth Prevention Responsibilities
WASHINGTON, DC - On August 22, several thousand individuals from across the nation tuned in to view a free public webcast and satellite broadcast addressing methamphetamine prevention in our nation's communities. Jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA), the broadcast featured a panel of law enforcement and drug prevention specialists who discussed the importance of community partnerships and prevention in the nation's fight against the meth epidemic. Individuals who missed the live broadcast can view an archived video of the program or read a text transcript by visiting www.DOJConnect.com.
In a taped message, U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales opened the broadcast by highlighting DOJ's heightened focus on combating illegal drugs like methamphetamine. "With the passage of the Combat Meth Act, which President Bush signed into law in March, we now have additional tools for targeting meth traffickers," said Attorney General Gonzales. "We all share the responsibility to work together on this issue until we ensure a bright, successful and drug-free future for our children and grandchildren," he said.
Following this introduction, panel moderator Les Witmer led two round table discussions about meth prevention strategies and best practices for approaching them.
Experts on the initial panel discussed the law enforcement challenges that are inherent in the fight against meth.
"Meth is an insidiously addictive drug with a lot of tentacles," said Dr. Ronald Glensor, Deputy Chief with the Reno, Nevada Police Department. "It does not lend itself to traditional street enforcement. Rather, it lends itself well to community partnerships and problem solving."
Panelists cited Meth 360 - a PDFA program funded by COPS - as a strategy for success. Piloted in several markets nationwide, this approach leverages grass roots educational presentations delivered by teams comprised of prevention, law enforcement and treatment representatives.
"We call it Meth 360 because meth comes at you from all directions and affects the whole community," said Michael Townsend, Executive Vice President and Director of the Methamphetamine Demand Reduction Program of the PDFA. "It's important that everyone get involved at the local community level to give everyone a 360 degree view of the problem."
Another cited best practice was the SARA Model, which involves Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment. Communities can use this model as a tool to identify local law enforcement problems and formulate tailored responses. Because it focuses heavily on the planning and assessment process, it forces communities to be strategic before diving into action.
"At each stage of the SARA Model, you're better off because of a partnership," said Paul Evenson, Project Evaluator for the Kansas Methamphetamine Prevention Project. "You're better off with more people, more sources of data and more points of view from people who understand. And at each step, a partnership can do more than any small group of people or one agency could ever hope to do."
Assembling the right team can mean leveraging existing organizations and partnerships, according to Nina Manganaris, Coalition Coordinator for the Prince William Health Partnership Authority in Northern Virginia. "In our community, we looked at the whole spectrum," she said. "Not just formal government agencies or formal treatment agencies, but our hospitals, our schools, PTAs to reach the parents and faith-based [organizations]. We're trying to be as comprehensive in our scanning of our community as we can, trying to identify the best points to connect with and educate people."
Evenson underscored the power of the Meth 360 approach and encouraged state and local communities to start building partnerships now, even if all the players aren't in place. "At the very least, make sure you have law enforcement involved, make sure you have treatment involved and make sure you have prevention involved," said Evenson. "Start with those key partners, and it will snowball from there."
The second panel focused its discussion on partnerships for interdiction and clandestine meth lab identification.
"Labs are one of the threats that come with methamphetamine," said Glensor, who advised communities to partner not only with treatment and prevention groups, but with fire departments, hazardous materials teams and environmental protection agencies. Additionally, motel owners, business owners and managers of storage facilities can help clue law enforcement into meth lab activity.
"When it comes to domestic production of methamphetamine, one of the trends I've observed is that things change," said John Donnelly, Unit Chief of the DEA's Clandestine Laboratory Training Unit. With precursor chemicals and meth "cooking" methods evolving, DEA has extended its training to non-traditional law enforcement audiences like fire departments, real estate agents and industrial hygienists, among others. According to Donnelly, such individuals should be trained to look for signs of meth labs, such as inordinate amounts of solvents, match book covers, cold medication and chemical containers.
Two of the panelists highlighted successful strategies in their home town of Salt Lake City, where DOJ funding helped create the city's COPS Methamphetamine Initiative. The program takes a collaborative, multi-agency approach involving law enforcement, child endangerment, enhanced prosecution, public awareness and treatment representatives.
However, in Salt Lake, effective collaboration between the Initiative's 30 different organizations did not happen overnight, said Detective Steve Cutler, one of the program's coordinators. The partners had to learn to work together, trust one another and speak the same language. As an example, integrating child protective services into the partnership took some time, but it has been critical to the success of the Salt Lake program. "The things that they have brought to us as a police department and as a community make a huge difference," said Cutler. "They're going to court, they're making sure [drug-endangered] kids are looked after, and we've even been able to change laws and get parents involved in the system."
Panelist Marjean Searcy, Project Coordinator for the Salt Lake City COPS Methamphetamine Initiative, agreed and also noted the need to delegate actionable tasks to community members following a public education campaign. "People will come to you and say 'how can I help with this?'," said Searcy. "Public education gives us a chance to engage members of the community in the solution, but we have to not just raise people's awareness, we have to give them a job to do."
The panelists also discussed several meth-related resources available to guide communities through the SARA process, including two COPS guidebooks titled "Clandestine Drug Labs" and "Combating Methamphetamine Laboratories and Abuse." These and a wealth of additional resources are available for download in the RESOURCES section of www.DOJConnect.com.
"Knowledge is power," said Donnelly. "Meth is a problem that can hurt you today, or years from now, so safety is the key, and the key to safety is knowledge."
In closing, the panelists reiterated the value of forging partnerships, working at them and localizing approaches that will work in a particular community. "Make sure that [your partnership] is addressing your problem, and that the right people are at the table," said Glensor. "And once you get to the table, be patient. Meth is not an easy problem to resolve, but you can make it better."
About DOJ Connect
Brought to you by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and produced by L&M Production Design Group based in Alexandria, VA, the DOJ Connect Webcast and Satellite Series includes several free, live, interactive programs addressing law enforcement issues impacting the nation's communities. The broadcast series enables viewers to submit questions to expert panelists via e-mail and receive on-air answers. For additional information, please contact Paul Lamonia at (703) 642-6505 or Lamonia@LMpdg.com, or, visit www.DOJConnect.com. For the next 12 months, archived video and text transcripts of the August 22 webcast - titled "A Community Partnership Approach to Addressing Meth" - can be accessed at: www.DOJConnect.com.