A police raid Monday at a north Spokane County home was another score for Operation Circle.
Investigators from four law enforcement agencies are working together to nab dealers and users of methamphetamine - the drug of choice in Spokane County. Police refer to the network of dealers and drug users as the Circle.
The task force has learned that about 350 Spokane-area residents are in the Circle. Since the task force began operating in May, 70 people who are part of the Circle have been arrested.
Monday, authorities seized a portable methamphetamine lab at a home on Musselman Road, near state Highway 395 and Denison Road.
“This is called the Ranch,” said police Sgt. Earl Ennis, one of the heads of Operation Circle. “We’ve been told that violence has occurred here on more than one occasion.”
Authorities from the city, county, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Washington State Patrol, found two ounces of the drug worth about $1,000, a recipe for methamphetamine and chemicals for processing the drug.
Two men who live at the residence weren’t home when authorities entered at 12:15 p.m. The men are wanted by police. Authorities suspect several assaults have occurred at the home.
In the last eight months, methamphetamine use and the violence associated with it has risen dramatically.
The methamphetamine lab raided Monday was the second discovered in the area since the task force was formed, Ennis said.
The task force was formed after the discovery of a body in Pend Oreille County - a murder linked to methamphetamine, also known as crank or speed.
Last month, authorities searched the ABC Mini Storage on Indiana in the Valley and found two storage units used in a methamphetamine operation.
The investigation into the Pend Oreille County homicide led the task force to members of the Circle.
“What we kept hearing was, ‘We’re part of the Circle,”’ Ennis said. “There’s a lot of violence associated with this group.”
It’s a loosely-knit group of dealers and users with no real hierarchy, Ennis said.
Many cocaine users looking for another stimulant after supplies of that drug dried up turned to “meth,” which is cheaper and easier to get.
Police said some forms of methamphetamine can keep users awake for five to 10 days. The lack of sleep plus the influence of the drug can be dangerous.
Authorities say methamphetamine produces paranoia and violent behavior, even in people who otherwise aren’t violent.
Some users of methamphetamine who were stopped by police recently reacted with extreme paranoia, Ennis said. “They thought we were stopping them to kill them.”