Meth Response Teams’ efforts lead to more than 500 arrests, seizure of more than 34,000 grams of drugs in year one
SPRINGFIELD – As the Illinois State Police’s (ISP) six Meth Response Teams mark their one-year anniversary, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the major successes the Teams have had in their first year. The Governor created the Meth Response Teams (MRT’s) last year as part of the state’s ongoing effort to combat the proliferation of one of the fastest-growing and most dangerous illegal drug trades in Illinois.
In their first year of operation, the MRT’s handled a total of 559 meth related incidents, made 513 arrests and seized nearly 34,000 grams of drugs and materials related to the production of meth.
“The dangers associated with meth go well beyond the user – the process of making the drug puts families, neighbors and entire communities at risk. That’s why we created the Response Teams to give local law enforcement much-needed help in fighting the meth scourge,” said Governor Rod R. Blagojevich. “The results from the first year are very encouraging. These Response Teams are making a difference.”
One of the original goals set for the MRT’s was to assume part of the workload, resulting from the increase in meth related cases on drug task forces and Metropolitan Enforcement Groups (MEG). Meth arrests made by MEGs and task forces had skyrocketed by more than 100 percent, from 605 arrests in 2000 to 1264 in 2004.
A recent report issued by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), said the teams had an immediate and significant effect on the growing problem of meth use and production and were responsible for easing the burden on localized drug task forces*.
Stationed in six multi-county zones across the state, MRTs immediately picked up where the MEGs and task forces had left off, increasing the total number of meth arrests and lab seizures statewide, with much of their focus in central and southern Illinois. Following MRT program implementation in May 2005, the local drug enforcement groups were again able to put their resources into fighting use, manufacture, and distribution of other drugs, and their meth arrests dropped 31 percent for the year.
“We’re taking a very serious approach to the significant issues associated with this devastating drug,” stated Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent. “Law enforcement remains committed to this effort and my agency will dedicate every resource necessary to combat this dangerous drug. The Governor has provided the laws needed to place the violators in jail. We must protect all victims, particularly the children, placed in harm’s way by those producing methamphetamine.”
The six dedicated Methamphetamine Response Teams (MRT’s) are responsible for investigating, seizing, and dismantling clandestine drug laboratories. The Governor dedicated these teams exclusively to fighting the increasing production of methamphetamine in Illinois. The initiative is a three-pronged approach for dealing with meth and the problems attributed to its use and production.
The 559 cases included 105 referred to MRT by other ISP investigative and narcotics units and 186 provided to other law enforcement entities. Local law enforcement agencies are not required to utilize services provided by the MRT’s but are aware of the units’ availability and resources.
Last month, MRT agents discovered a large meth manufacturing lab at a residence in Rockbridge, Ill., where the owners were running the lab in a workshop attached to the home. During the search, 542 grams of liquid meth and several precursors needed for meth manufacturing were recovered. In addition, there were several surveillance cameras and 14 firearms, including a loaded AK-47 and a Ruger Mini 14.
Just today, MRT agents executed a warrant in Arcola, Ill. in an effort to obtain evidence of meth manufacturing. After gaining access, agents recovered approximately 200 grams of liquid meth as well as ingredients used to manufacture the drugs recovered and seven firearms.
“The Methamphetamine Response Team program is tremendously helpful to the multijurisdictional enforcement groups and drug task forces we are supporting across Illinois,” said Lori G. Levin, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority executive director. “Because these teams focus solely on meth-related drug crimes, the localized task forces we have in place are able to put the focus on fighting use, production, and distribution of other drugs throughout the state, such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine.”
“The ISP Meth Response Team has brought relief to our small law enforcement agency by responding to local meth labs and meth incidents in our county. The team provides expert personnel and valuable resources that complements my staff and increases the confidence our citizens have in law enforcement as we respond to the meth problem in our area,” stated Sheriff Robert Kinderman, Christian County Sheriffs Department. The majority of the 559 meth related incidents involved MRT personnel taking the lead on cases. Officers would complete the necessary investigative work, perform the takedown of clandestine labs, remove volatile chemicals used in meth production and assist in sanitizing the area occupied by the lab. Their actions resulted in 513 meth related arrests of manufacturers and associates, usually involved in the procurement of materials needed for production. The arrests of these individuals lead to the seizure of nearly 34,000 grams of meth, both liquid and powder, and liquid ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
In addition to enforcement, the teams are also involved in raising awareness and education efforts, presenting meth programs to community groups and schools, and co-teaching the awareness message along with Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) representatives.
During the past year officers have completed 177 presentations to retail and business establishments and 169 presentations to schools and community groups, along with 19 Drug Endangered Children training sessions. The training sessions were designed for social service personnel, public safety officials and educators. Retailers and businesses, such as pharmacies, also received special training.
In addition to creating the MRT’s, Gov. Blagojevich has taken several actions to make it harder for meth producers to obtain ingredients, and to stiffen penalties for manufacturers, dealers and users. He signed several meth related bills into law, including the “Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act”, one of the most significant anti-methamphetamine statutes enacted to address meth. Senate Bill 273 created and designated pseudoephedrine as a Schedule V substance. The bill was signed by Governor Blagojevich in November 2005 and became effective on January 15, 2006. The new law restricts the retail sale of pseudoephedrine-containing products to pharmacists or pharmacist technicians only, and requires purchasers of pseudoephedrine-containing products to show identification and sign a log. The Governor has signed other significant meth related bills including:
· Last weekend the Governor signed a new law that establishes a statewide methamphetamine offender registry in Illinois for people convicted under the “Participation in Methamphetamine Manufacturing” statute. The bill requires the ISP to establish, maintain, and publish (via the Internet) the registry, tracking reversals of convictions and court orders requiring the sealing or expungement of records relating to the reportable offenses.
· Also last weekend, the Governor signed a law that creates the new offense of meth trafficking for individuals who knowingly bring methamphetamine or its precursors or cause methamphetamine or its precursors to be brought into Illinois with the intent to make, deliver, or sell meth. The new law will prevent meth manufacturers from trying to get around Illinois’ tough restrictions on access to pseudoephedrine by going to other states for meth ingredients. The offense carries a penalty of no less than double the minimum and double the maximum sentence for selling meth or possessing its precursors with the intent to make meth, which is based on the quantity involved. This law also makes changes to the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act.
· In August, 2005, he signed a bill into law authorizing the establishment of an anhydrous ammonia security grant program by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The grant will create a pilot program with goal of increasing security measures around anhydrous ammonia facilities by encouraging the industry to utilize industry approved ammonia additives, install tank locking devices security systems to prevent the theft of anhydrous ammonia for the illegal manufacture of meth.
· A new law signed by the Governor went into effect January 1 of this year, creating the Methamphetamine Law Enforcement Fund, which assesses a $100 fine on top of other fines and sentences for anyone found guilty of a drug related offense involving possession or delivery of meth. The additional $100 is deposited into a fund used to reimburse local law enforcement agencies for the cost of securing and cleaning up sites and facilities used for the illegal manufacture of meth, and to defray the costs of employing fulltime or part time peace officers, and the costs associated with medical or dental expenses incurred by the county resulting from the incarceration of meth addicts in county jails or corrections facilities.
*ISP Methamphetamine Response Team activities by zone, May 15 to December 31, 2005. http://www.icjia.state.il.us/public/pdf/AtAGlance/MRT.pdf