Meth roundup nets Spokane suspects
In what was intended to be a show of force Tuesday, federal authorities announced the arrest of 427 suspected drug dealers as part of a national crackdown on methamphetamine.
That total includes four arrests made last week in Spokane and 28 overall in the state of Washington.
“The scourge of methamphetamine demands strong partnerships and innovative solutions to fight the devastation it leaves behind,” U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in prepared remarks.
However, at least some of those cases included investigations that were well under way before the federal crackdown, called Operation Wildfire, was launched last week. Among them are the Spokane arrests on Aug. 22 and five more suspects taken into custody in Yakima, which were separate investigations.
“They said go line up as many drug dealers as you can and go arrest them for meth,” said Tom Rice, chief criminal assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. Federal authorities “gathered up the cases we were doing and said this was our methamphetamine surge.”
Rice said the four Spokane suspects were Vern Edward Boyd, 30; Shane J. Pariseau, 25; Patrick Caldwell, 41; and Daryl McCann, 33. Also seized during the arrests were about two pounds of meth in Spokane and about eight pounds in Yakima.
“It was just a roundup nationwide,” Rice said. “They tasked the DEA to get as many defendants off the street that they could. Are we going to arrest meth dealers this week and next week? Yeah. We are going to continue to do it.”
Meanwhile, at a crime forum hosted Tuesday afternoon by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris at Gonzaga University, law enforcement officials said that methamphetamine is creating scores of neglected children, spikes in property crime, an overcrowded jail system and a pinch on resources.
A concerted community effort targeting meth labs has almost stopped the production of meth in Spokane County, but the end of labs hasn’t decreased addiction and access to the drug, said county Sheriff Mark Sterk.
“Meth is still the drug of choice in our community,” Sterk said.
Speakers highlighted task forces, initiatives, partnerships and operations fighting the spread of meth. They stressed treatment and education programs as a key to slowing addiction.
“I can throw them in jail all day, but it won’t do any good if we don’t get them off the drugs,” Sterk said.
More than 200 cities were said to have participated in Operation Wildfire, which was credited for the arrests of 427 suspects and the confiscation of 209 pounds of meth. The only Idaho arrests were made in the southern part of the state.
The announcement followed intense criticism from members of Congress and local law enforcement that the federal government is not doing enough to combat the use of methamphetamine. More than half of 500 sheriffs recently surveyed called meth their top problem, far surpassing cocaine and marijuana.
Local officials applauded the results announced Tuesday, calling them good first steps. But the Bush administration has proposed eliminating $804 million in grants to local authorities for drug-fighting efforts, said Joe Dunn, assistant legislative director for the National Association of Counties.
“We’d like them to reverse that decision,” Dunn said, noting that Congress appears likely to restore at least $400 million.
Methamphetamine, which can come in the form of a crystal-like powder or rocklike chunks, is an addictive stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally. Its street names include “ice,” “crystal,” “speed” and “tina.”
Gonzales said he spoke Monday with his Mexican counterpart, Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, about finding ways to stem the movement of meth from Mexican labs to the United States. The government estimates that roughly two-thirds of the meth in the United States comes from Mexico.
U.S. officials also are working with Mexicans to try to control shipments from other countries of pseudoephedrine and other raw materials used in meth, DEA administrator Karen Tandy said.
The DEA also unveiled an anti-meth Web site aimed at teens, www.justthinktwice.com.