Athens Sheriff And State Differ In Approach To Solving Meth Problem

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The Athens County Sheriff's Office is calling for a new approach to tackling the local meth problem.

A new report issued by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office shows law enforcement agencies across Ohio have responded to 770 meth labs since last October. That’s almost double than the number of incidents reported in 2011.

The report also shows Athens County deputies have reported 16 meth busts over the year, a number Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly believes will keep increasing if state officials don't invest in prevention strategies. 

“Prevention is key, but it’s tricky. It’s often overlooked because it’s costly,” he said. 

However, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office put focus on punishment, not prevention. 

“Just as an example, for every 10 people arrested for producing the drug, seven of those cases will result in prison time. If you’re producing, you’re putting an entire community at risk. It is dangerous behavior and not something to take lightly at all,” he said.

Jill Del Greco, Public Information Officer for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, agrees rehabilitation is needed for drug addicts, however, that’s not their job.

“We believe rehabilitation is a huge part of the equation, but we’re law enforcement so we don’t rehabilitate people. That’s up to different county agencies,” she said. 

Agencies such as Athens County’s 317 board and local drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers work with addicts, but Kelly said there’s not enough money or focus on these agencies for them to really get the job done.

“There needs to be more money going into treatment. If we took the money we spend in Iraq and Afghanistan and put that money into treatment, we could get close to stopping this problem,” he said. “The state needs to put more money in the hands of these local organizations so we can deal with it, but that’s not happening.”

Kelly believes the growing number of meth labs in the area can be attributed to an increase in overall meth addiction in contingent counties.

“What we’re seeing is a trend. West Virginia is one of the leading states in the nation facing this problem, and it seems to be filtering over into our region,” he said.

Kelly said it’s becoming more of an issue since the drug is highly addictive and “is just so easy to make,” as many of the ingredients can be made from household products.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office attributes the overall increase to an increase in drug abuse and a more aggressive approach on uncovering cases of meth production by law enforcement officers.