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Methamphetamine: "The beginning of the end"

By: Ray Decunto
Street Survival Seminar Instructor

From the Street Survival Newsline

Methamphetamine is commonly referred to as meth, crank, chalk, speed, peanut brittle and ice. Despite its name - why is this drug so powerful? I have heard it said by many law enforcement officers in this country that methamphetamine is the worse drug to ever infiltrate their community.

The "Meth Heads" or "Tweakers" (Methamphetamine users and manufacturers) are unpredictable and very dangerous. This is a very addictive drug which does not only carry with it violence from use but additionally the potential violence during the manufacturing process. This violence can be directed at law enforcement in many different ways. In addition, the violence can be directed toward citizens in the community, and in some cases, toward children by their (addicts) parents.

This drug is different than most others because the user becomes addicted rapidly and then they realize how easy (and profitable) it is to produce, so they become their own source of supply.

Methamphetamine stimulates the central nervous system and produces an increase in alertness, speech, and physical activity. Some observable behavior includes; dilated pupils, mood swings, nervousness, anxiety, rapid speech, and VIOLENT BEHAVIOR. The effects of its use lasts from two to four hours and can be detected in the blood from four to six hours after ingestion, and in urine from 24 to 48 hours after use. The two most common methods of introducing the drug into the body is smoking it and injecting it intravenously.

The manufacturing process of methamphetamine uses chemicals and, because it is illegal, that production usually takes place in unpopulated areas not frequented by law enforcement. Thus, the term "clandestine labs" is used to describe a place where methamphetamine is produced and it simply means "concealed or done in secret."

In addition they are using vehicles and hotel/motel rooms from which to manufacture and distribute "meth" from and from my own investigation experience, I have noticed an increase in some of the more populated residential areas.

The appearance of methamphetamine varies with the quality control used in the manufacturing process. Usually higher quality street methamphetamine is a white crystalline powder. However most of the methamphetamine on the street is usually from poor or low quality manufacturing and is off white to brownish in color. I have also seen it pink and green in color. The methamphetamine may also have a granular, sticky or solid block appearance. So how do you know if you have a methamphetamine problem?

The answer is easy. If your agency's patrol officers are making arrests for possession of methamphetamine, then chances are you have a methamphetamine problem and clandestine methamphetamine labs. Now what do you do to combat this vicious dilemma? TRAINING is the answer. In the remainder of this article I will share with you information which will help guide you in the right direction if faced with this methamphetamine epidemic. I will start with a realistic scenario:

You are working patrol and receive a call from the manager of a motel complaining of a nasty, unpleasant, nauseating smell coming from one of the rooms. Upon your arrival you knock on the door and there is no answer. The manager uses the pass key and opens the door.

When the door opens you are hit in the face with the strong sickening smell of chemicals. While standing in the doorway you can see inside the room. You notice a glass beaker on a table filled with an opaque liquid. On the floor there is a red plastic gas can with a hose attached to the nozzle. You also observe a small grill type propane tank corroded at the valve so badly that it's turning blue. What do you do? Common sense would tell you not to go in.

Now, let's add a suspect that is standing there refusing your order to come out. What's the percentage of officers in this country that would go in and grab the suspect? I would say if not properly trained the percentage could be high. SAFETY is the most important factor when dealing with methamphetamine labs and users. Currently DEA is assisting agencies throughout the country with the investigation and removal of clandestine methamphetamine labs. We have to remember O.S.H.A. (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations and the costs involved for properly tearing down and removing a clandestine methamphetamine lab.

The costs could range anywhere from $3,000 for a small lab to $100,000 for a super lab. This is why DEA needs to be involved at the very beginning of a methamphetamine lab investigation. This means before you disturb a lab site you need to call DEA or your agency will be responsible for the clean up bill. Currently the clean up is paid for with funds from a grant allotted to DEA.

The methamphetamine problem has grown so large in this country that more and more police agencies are attending meth lab certification courses to combat the problem. If you are a certified law enforcement officer then you need methamphetamine training. It's not a matter of if "meth" is coming to your community, it's when. Your involvement with illicit narcotics during your assigned normal duties will determine if you receive a basic first responder methamphetamine identification course or the clandestine lab certification course.

A phone call to your local DEA office or Law Enforcement Training Center should guide you in the right direction. Most of the methamphetamine training offered to you will be grant funded and tuition free.

Three training options that come to mind are:

The DEA training facility located at Quantico Va. (DEA.gov)

The Multi-Jurisdictional Counter Drug Task Force Training site located in St. Petersburg, Fl. ( www.mctft.com )

The Clandestine Laboratory Investigators Association (C.L.I.A.) ( www.clialabs.com) .

Methamphetamine is a very dangerous and addictive drug spreading across this country like wildfire. We have to remember that the "Tweakers" are extremely violent and from my experiences are usually armed. We cannot lower our guard or relax for a second or we may fall victim. Practice good street survival skills, train and STAY SAFE.

About the instructor

Raimondo "Ray" DeCunto has been a law enforcement officer since 1981. Ray began his career with the Madeira Beach, FL Police Department, and in 1985 he was hired by the Pinellas Country Sheriff's Office. As a police officer, Ray has served in such assignments as patrol, field training, traffic, investigations, and narcotics. He was assigned to the PCSO S.W.A.T. team for 13 years, nine of those as Team Leader. Currently, Ray is assigned as a sergeant to the Narcotics Division and his responsibilities include supervising and directing covert & overt drug operations. Additionally, he coordinates tactical training for the Narcotics division as it relates to the execution of search warrants, agent rescues and buy-bust operations.

Ray has been a police trainer since 1990. He is a certified instructor in firearms, defensive tactics, defensive driving, expandable baton, chemical agents, and FATS. Currently he is involved in the development and instruction of courses involving basic and advanced tactical drug operations, tactical maritime activities, and SWAT operations. He is also an instructor with the Multi-jurisdictional Counter Drug Task Force Training Program, focusing on officer survival during narcotics investigations, raids, and arrests. Ray has taught numerous tactical survival courses to law enforcement and military personnel in the United States as well as the Mariana Islands, specifically Saipan and holds a narcotics training certificate through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

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