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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"A month of meth"
ALBANY, April 2 -- It was nearly one year ago when I wrote the following in a column: “We could give a meth-bust-of-the-month award around here.” I wrote that observation after noting a series of local methamphetamine-related arrests and other incidents that were dominating the headlines throughout the early months of last year – including one of New York’s largest-ever meth lab discoveries in Schuyler County.
Now, almost one year later, we’re coming off a month of March that was also a month of meth locally – another series of Southern Tier arrests capped off by last week’s State Police raid of a clandestine lab in Tuscarora, Steuben County.
So it’s a good time to recall what we’ve been reminded of time after time over the past decade as meth has alarmingly spread across the nation: stay on guard.
We need to remember that once a culture of meth takes root anywhere, it spins out of control. It takes an unimaginable toll on local systems of health care and social services. It produces violent crime, drug-endangered children and hazardous waste. It puts police officers and first responders at enormous risk.
We’re always wise to remember a 2005 report from the State Commission of Investigation (SIC) that warned how meth would become a dire public health and safety threat unless New York adopted new and tougher laws to combat the drug’s proliferation. That report, Methamphetamine Use & Manufacture, warned that without action and awareness “New York could become a haven for methamphetamine users and manufacturers.” Alarmingly, it highlighted the Southern Tier as a hotbed of criminal meth activity.
And it sparked a strong, bipartisan legislative effort that produced New York’s first comprehensive strategy to combat the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine. The 2005 law put in place tough new criminal penalties to outlaw clandestine labs; promoted greater community awareness and education; recognized the danger to children; and sought to address the environmental hazards associated with meth labs.
It was one of New York’s landmark anti-drug laws and, as we’ve witnessed ever since, it’s initiated many effective deterrence, enforcement and prevention strategies. But as the recent local arrests prove, we can never rest easy against meth – or, for that matter, against any other highly addictive drug and illegal drug trafficking. The very fact of the recent arrests tells the good news, of course, that the State Police, together with local law enforcement officers, are far from sitting back.
We simply can’t say enough about their commitment and diligence in this regard.
Still, public awareness and education remain crucial. Seven years ago it literally became a crusade among police officers, district attorneys, legislators, news reporters, first responders, educators and concerned citizens to help defend our communities and neighborhoods. There was a steady drumbeat of public awareness, which can never be underestimated. Some of the arrests we’ve seen over the past year, in fact, were initiated by watchful citizens who didn’t hesitate to alert local law enforcement to suspicious activity.
It’s an important reminder. So we keep renewing the anti-meth effort in education and prevention, public awareness, law enforcement, and public policy. Right now in the state Legislature, for example, legislation has been introduced to establish a new registry as a way to monitor the whereabouts of meth convicts. Another measure would require New York to join other states that have put in place systems for tracking sales of the over-the-counter cold medicines commonly used in meth manufacturing.
But it always starts with a simple, straightforward message: don’t underestimate the danger.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
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
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869