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Colo. Springs Police Team Lead State in Meth-Lab Busts

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - A drug-enforcement task force led by the Colorado Springs police continues to lead the state in uncovering methamphetamine labs.

The team, which covers El Paso and Teller Counties, busted 156 clandestine labs in 2003, most of them in Colorado Springs. There were 153 labs uncovered in the area in 2002 and 87 in 2001.

By comparison, the Denver police department busted 25 labs last year. The North Metro Task Force, which covers Adams and Broomfield counties, uncovered 66 labs.

"They have led the state for the past couple of years," Bev Walz of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area said of the Colorado Springs-based group.

Police Cmdr. Kurt Pillard doesn't think the city has more meth labs than others. He attributes the high numbers to aggressive enforcement and community-education efforts.

The methamphetamine team, which includes the El Paso County sheriff's office, Fountain police, the Teller County sheriff's office and the Colorado Springs police, held 62 community presentations in about the drug last year.

Police Sgt. Terry Curry, who heads the team, still wants to reach more people. He said lax sentencing for methamphetamine makers is a big part of the problem.

"You cook meth three times here, and you get probation," he said. "If you go to Wyoming and cook methamphetamine, you'll go to prison the first time. I don't have to worry about you until you get out of prison."

Assistant District Attorney Dan May said his office is working for harsher sentences.

"We are using the opportunity at sentencing to put on these experts to educate these judges to the seriousness and dangerousness of the meth labs," May said.

Methamphetamine, which can be made with over-the-counter cold medicine and common household chemicals, can be made in clandestine labs that create explosive and corrosive byproducts. Users can become addicted the first time, and are prone to violence and paranoia, said Dr. Kathryn Wells of the Denver Family Crisis Center.

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