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How an Ark. community fought meth and won

By PoliceOne Staff

NEW ORLEANS, La. A police chief outlined how his community fought meth and won – thanks to a community policing model.

A methamphetamine lab found in an Oklahoma motel in 1997 that Drug Enforcement Administration agents say could use active ingredients found in normal household items like starter fluid, lithium battries, Styrofoam cups and Sudafed.(AP Photo/Drug Enforcement Administration,File)
Danny E. Bradley, Chief of North Little Rock, Arkansas, spoke about his department’s amazing successes during an education session on policing strategies at the IACP in New Orleans.

He explained that by using a community policing model, the city’s growing scourge of methamphetamine production was almost eradicated.

A few years ago, the narcotics unit of the North Little Rock PD was stymied by a seemingly unwinnable war on meth. In addition to the drug crime associated with use and distribution of the drug, the community was hit by the highly dangerous and telltale byproducts of meth production — explosions, fumes, and hazmat contamination — often encountered by children.

In response, Chief Bradley appealed to the community to help police turn the tide. He educated utility workers, home health care workers, pharmacists, teachers, and Home Depot and Lowes employees (where meth-makers bought their supplies) on the severity and nature of the problem, and asked for their help in naming names.

To help the campaign a “meth tip line” was activated.

“It was amazing how the community bought into helping solve this problem,” he said.

Within a year, there was a 137 percent increase of lab seizures and a 350 percent  rise in meth-maker arrests, said Chief Bradley.

Although a huge victory in itself, Chief Bradley said he still felt as if he needed to stem the tide of meth production at the root to make the campaign a conclusive success.

His case was helped by a federal law passed in March last year that put strict limits on how much and how often an individual could purchase ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, household decongestant ingredients used to manufacture meth.

While a good step, Chief Bradley felt it was still  not enough.

So, he and his team developed a way of tracking these ingredient purchases electronically.

Using a material tracking system originally developed for pawn shop inventory, his team created a Web-based software capable of feeding purchase information back to a main database. Within six months, the software was installed in every pharmacy in North Little Rock.

The efficacy of the project was stunning, nearly shutting down meth production in the area.

But Chief Bradley wanted to cast an even wider net.

“We started sending the pseudoephedrine purchasing information that we had tracked to other jurisdictions further out," he said.

As a result, an impressive number of tracking arrests have been made.

This year, the Arkansas state legislature passed a law mandating tracking software statewide.

“What I like about his program is that is prevents the crime," said Chief Bradley. "You don’t have to send investigators out there to tracks leads. It doesn’t drain resources from your department.”

In the end, what happened was more than meth eradication.

“It’s was about innovation, community partnerships, and smart leadership,” he said.

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