Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Drug du jour

About a year ago, I noted in one of my posts on The Chief's Corner that we really don't have any good data about the prevalence of illegal drugs of abuse in the community. Police data reflects arrests and seizures, but these are often a matter of what vein of drugs we happen to have tapped into at any given time. If we take down a mid-level cocaine trafficker, for instance, all manner of related arrests and cases will spin off involving cocaine.

Everyone in Nebraska seems to be convinced that methamphetamine is the primary problem, but I have yet to see any data that makes that case decisively. Nonetheless, it drives a lot of public policy and political rhetoric. Is it really as prevalent as we think, and if so is meth abuse increasing or decreasing? It would be good to actually know what drugs are being abused, to what extent, and how those trends are changing over time.

I had this discussion last year with Lori Seibel, the President of the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln. The Endowment was searching for what they could most productively fund to impact the meth problem, and I suggested that creating a mechanism for gathering baseline data would be a great project. I told Lori about the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program of the Justice Department, that went belly-up a few years ago. I also pointed out a variety of other potential sources for data on the prevalence of drugs in the community: pre-employment screens, commercial drivers' license screens, hospital admissions, self-reports from people in treatment, police arrests, State Crime lab tests, and so forth. If you could get access to these data (sanitized to protect individual information), you could potentially create a great resource for tracking what's really going on.

The idea took root, and the next thing you know, the Community Health Endowment had arranged for Dr. Phyliss Newton, who headed the ADAM program, to come to Lincoln for a consultation. The Endowment has just awarded a grant to our local alcohol detox facility, Cornhusker Place, to conduct a multi-year project very similar to ADAM. I'm looking forward to seeing the data.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chief,
The other day I was shopping for a new cell phone. I just wanted a simple phone that I could carry with me when I am out on the motorcycle in case I needed help. I couldn't believe how many phones are set up with video and audio that can be sent to sites on the Internet.

In one of your earlier blogs you commented about "Eyes in the Community". I am sure that a lot of citizens observe illegal activity in real time and if they knew how to send that information to the police department they would do so. My question: Is there a website setup for LPD to receive these videos? It could be an effective tool that might make us all safer.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Meth is bad mojo, any way you look at it. That's the qualitative assessment, but hopefully this will provide some more quantitative data.

What is your opinion on the alleged rise in Mexican meth? Specifically, the theory that the crackdown on US meth labs and scrutiny on raw material procurement has made ad hoc domestic manufacture more difficult, and the importation of the drug more common. Less risk to set up a lab there, then smuggle it across a swiss-cheese border. Organized meth pipelines of the same imported meth throughout the US by MS-13 and similar criminal gangs, that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

This incident really got my blood boiling. Our "great" local paper doesn't allow comments on this story, but I encourage everyone to go to the County Attorney's web site and run the name of the suspect. He's had a steady...career.

Does that guy have his own personal cell there at the County Jail?

Anonymous said...

I believe we are indeed over-emphasizing meth. It's an easy cause, and an easy way to make political hay for those so inclined. To say this aloud is unpopular. In some venues, the mob will light torches and run you out of the room. If one would dare suggest that the legislation the issue has produced is not some great panacea, the congresscritters will hang you at high noon. Talking to (insert favorite drug user label here), the usual dope, prescription drugs, and the existing and up-and-coming designers are the more substantive issues. Along with our longstanding nemesis: Alcohol. It will be nice to see the data.

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut-

The last thing in the world I'd want a citizen to do would be to pause and upload a photo or video, when they could be dialing 911! We can always get the image later.

11:02-

Here in Lincoln, even at the high water mark, local labs contribution to the meth supply was incredibly tiny. Our meth has almost all come from Mexico all along.

1:13-

Welcome to our world. :( Don't get discouraged. Do what you can with what you've got where you're at.

1:30-

I don't know whether we're overemphasizing it or not. That's why a steady stream of reliable monitoring data would be such a good thing. Abusive use of alcohol, of course, trumps all the illegal drugs combined in its toll.

Anonymous said...

Drugs are bad m'kay.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of drugs, we know that the recent Home-invasion Robbery @ 14th & B was drug-related, but how about this morning's HIR @ 9th & South (A8-056083)? Did the victim have any drug-related RAP? In any case, be really careful about answering the door at 4:30 in the morning.

Tom Casady said...

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."

So, 12:55, it seems that you're a bit suspicious that there may be more to the story than meets the eye.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm just going with the probabilities here. Since the victim wasn't reported as elderly, I'm banking on the drug angle, and heftier drugs that MJ. Meth, crack, stolen Rx drugs, something like that, or at least sale weight MJ. I just can't see the risk vs. reward making sense when you could just do a much safer burglary of a more upscale (thus more lucrative) residence - unless you wanted to steal their contraband stash.

Anonymous said...

why doesn't lincoln have a bigger narcotics task force to combat this drug problem?

Tom Casady said...

12:21-

Probably because we have the smallest police force per capita in the State, the 181st smallest of the 194 cities in Nebraska and the five surrounding States (and the only City of 200,000 or more in the bottom half), and the City is facing a 6 million dollar deficit in the coming year. We do the best we can with the funds our citizens (through their elected representatives) are willing to provide.

Anonymous said...

Chief,
Is there any type of federal grant available for a police dept in such need of more fuding to provide adequate staffing? A homeland security grant or something similar??

Tom Casady said...

2:53-

A little over $300K of the Drug Task Force is being funded this year by Federal grants. Our award for the coming Federal fiscal year is going down to $99K.

There is one other significant pot of Federal funding available to us for personnel, COPS grants. We have a current award we could use to partially fund additional officers (it pays $25K per ofc. for three years)--but it requires a local match--money that we don't have--for the remainder of the salary, benefits, equipment, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

I see you served a warrant @10th & Park overnight, just a few blocks from that 9th & South HIR. Related, or just coincidental? You're pretty good at striking while the iron is hot on this sort of thing. In any event, I bet the landlord wishes the tenant had just opened the door!

Tom Casady said...

3:11-

Unrelated.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

It will be very interesting to see the results of the study. Another good resource would be to increase the number of Drug Recognition Experts on the department. The DRE program is a good resource to have on hand to evaluate individuals that might be under the influence. Once the non-DRE officers on the department see that management is buying into the program, I would expect to see the number of impaired motorists, & others, arrested. The benefits are many. Check out the following:
http://decp.org/community/.