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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

“Meth making a comeback?

ALBANY, May 23 -- It’s not a very encouraging way to mark this year’s calendar, but we ignore doing it at our own risk – no matter how unsettling it might be. What I’m getting at is that you could go to the search engine of a local newspaper right now, type in the word "methamphetamine,” and watch the results fill up the screen.

We could give a meth-bust-of-the-month award around here, and it’s enough to make the alarms go off. From a mid-January meth lab arrest in Corning to the Southern Tier’s largest-ever clandestine lab discovery just last week in Schuyler County, the local news has delivered a pretty steady supply of meth-related crime reports.

It begs the question: Is meth making a comeback? Many local law enforcement officers say yes. And the reasons are varied. It’s getting easier and easier to manufacture the stuff. Tough economic times spark a rise in overall criminal behavior, and making and selling meth can be outrageously profitable. Crime crackdowns in large cities like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse drive more and more criminals, including drug dealers, toward smaller cities, towns and villages.

“Meth is a huge problem right now,” Steuben County Sheriff’s Deputy Noel Terwilliger told a local reporter not long ago. Recall that it was just six years ago, in early 2005 at the start of my first term in the Legislature, when a state report identified our region as a potential meth hotbed. That report was dropped on the region’s doorstep just over a year after the killings of two Bradford County sheriff’s deputies – Michael A. VanKuren and Christopher M. Burgert – during a meth-related arrest. It all fueled the already-growing fears locally over meth’s proliferation and it
helped spur a successful bipartisan effort by state legislators and then-Governor George Pataki that produced New York’s first comprehensive anti-meth strategy. The 2005 law put in place tough new criminal penalties to outlaw clandestine labs; promoted greater community awareness and education; and tried to address the environmental hazards associated with meth labs.

It was one of New York’s landmark anti-drug laws and it’s been successful, but it’s becoming clearer by the day that we can’t sit back against meth or any other highly addictive drug and illegal drug trafficking. So the effort begins again. It may require new laws. Right now, for example, legislation has been introduced to establish a new registry as a way to monitor the whereabouts of anyone ever convicted of a meth-related crime. Another measure would require New York to join other states that have systems for tracking sales of the over-the-counter cold medicines used in meth manufacturing. I am working with local law enforcement and district attorneys toward this end.

But first, we must reignite local awareness and education – an admirable effort already underway this year by many local law enforcement agencies. One of the reasons we were so successful six years ago was because it literally became a crusade among law officers, district attorneys, legislators, editorial writers, first responders, educators and concerned citizens to help defend our communities. A steady drumbeat of public awareness is still effective. Some of this year’s arrests came about because watchful citizens didn’t hesitate to alert local law enforcement to suspicious activity.

Remember what we learned the first time around. That once a culture of meth invades a region, it can sink deep roots. Once it takes hold, it spins out of control. The drug's proliferation promises equally escalating costs to local systems of health care and social services, more violent crime, higher numbers of drug-endangered children, more and more hazardous waste sites dotting the landscapes of our communities, and increasing risks for local law enforcement officers and first responders.

That’s all still true. Those familiar with meth's devastation remain quick to share this advice: do everything within your power to drive meth manufacturers and dealers out of your communities. It starts with understanding that we can’t underestimate the danger.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

 

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field

   
       

Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383

 

State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451
Website: http://gillibrand.senate.gov/

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976
www.omara.nysenate.gov

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538
Website: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=137

 

© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869

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