Meth is back.
Just ask any drug addict and narcotic officer about the presence of methamphetamine that’s what you will probably hear.
State lawmakers across the Mid-South and nation tried to marginalize the existence of the drugs by regulating the over the counter medicines used to manufacture it in so-called “shake and bake houses”.
It might have worked have nationally but the supply supplemented by super meth labs are operating in Mexico.
Law enforcement told FOX13 those labs are producing meth that is cheaper and deadlier than before, and it is starting to pour into some communities in the U.S.
FOX13 wanted to find out how bad the meth problem is in the Mid-South. FOX13 found the drug has not made a resurgence in the Memphis area but in smaller counties, it is a big deal.
The Sheriff of Alcorn County, Mississippi told FOX13: ”It is huge. It is huge right now and Alcott County. I would say 80 to 90 percent of our arrests for drugs are meth-related. Again on top of that, the majority of our crimes being committed in Alcorn county are meth-related.“
FOX13 obtained data about the meth arrest and seizures across the Mid-South and found the number increasing by more than 50 percent in some states.
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The appearance of this designer drug is starting to tax the resources of smaller police departments.
In Memphis, the multi-agency gang unit targets a corner officers described as “hot for crime.”
Sgt. Charles Jefferson stood at one corner of Getwell Avenue and said it is “actually one of our high crime areas, and that is why we are out here."
Officers stop cars for minor traffic violations to search for drugs and weapons.
Hours earlier, FOX13 watched the arrest of one suspected drug dealer at an apartment complex.
MGU officers confiscated guns, drugs and a small bag of meth – which is a rare find.
FOX13 asked Sgt. Jefferson if Memphis has a meth problem.
"Meth is definitely out here,” Jefferson said. “Not on a large scale. Not as a much as cocaine and marijuana."
One of those crimes that shocked Alcorn County was the arrest of a middle school teacher accused of secretly taping girls in the locker room.
According to police, Micah Wilbanks was in possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
“I would not be afraid to say that everybody in this community has been affected by meth in some way,” said Alcron County Sheriff Ben Caldwell.
Caldwell sent FOX13 pictures of meth seized last year – bags of it found packaged for sale as dealers even tried to hide the drugs in uncommon places like a kitchen oven.
Caldwell suspects the drug confiscated is not the drug concocted in some meth house. Those methods are practically gone, replaced by super labs south of the border producing a cheaper and more potent product.
“We are seeing meth come out of Mexico,” Caldwell said. “It’s being trafficked up in our communities. It is the same meth, they just do a different process. They call it ice.”
FOX13 obtained data from law enforcement, which showed the amount of meth seized and related arrests since 2015 have increased by more than 50 percent in Shelby County, Tipton County, across the state of Tennessee and Arkansas.
"When you look at the highway system and what we’ve got – I-40, I-55,” said Tim Helldorfer, the director of the West Tennessee Drug Task Force. “The way it comes out of Texas to Arkansas to hear this is a major transaction for the highway system.”
Caldwell drove to areas where meth is prevalent, in low-income neighborhoods.
Those arrests tie up his manpower, Caldwell said, because: “Without meth, we wouldn’t have so many issues. We wouldn’t have the violent crimes. The theft, the burglaries would not be as high.”
Crime is increasing and so are the number of meth fatalities. Addicts like Michele Gonzalez in need of treatment found help at Addiction Campuses.
“I was like revved up all the time,” Gonzalez said. “My mind constantly would not shut down. It was like wheels turning constantly. In my head I could not focus on anything. Meth will kill you. Eventually it will kill you.”
"We are definitely trained for it and definitely searching for it and ready if it happens,” said Jefferson.
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