CCSO fighting constant battle

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

&#8220Some you can help, some you can't. You can only help the ones who want it. That's what hurts me the most – the ones who don't want help.”

When it comes to the rising problem of methamphetamine addictions, Crenshaw County Chief Investigator Ronnie White knows all about trying to help people.

White works closely with Investigator Robin Daniels

on meth cases in Crenshaw County.

&#8220We got most of our knowledge about meth labs, especially in the beginning, from people we had arrested who wanted help,” White said.

The meth scene became more prominent around 2001, White said, when the Sheriff's department began finding meth labs on domestic calls.

&#8220We even started finding more of it on just routine traffic stops, and we began to hear more and more about it on the streets,” he said.

In addition, White noticed an increase in violent behavior on certain calls.

&#8220About three years ago, we had one city and two county garbage trucks to catch on fire,” he said. &#8220What we found were the hazardous meth by-products that had been thrown away, and that is what had caused all three fires.”

When it comes to methamphetamine, the main drug is psuedoephidrine, which, until recently, was fairly easy to obtain at any over-the-counter

drugstore or convenience store. White said that responsible citizens and neighbors should look for certain activities

when it comes to protecting one's neighborhood against meth addicts and dealers.

First, White said that meth users will usually participate in late-at-night activities, such as working on cars at 3 a.m. Another sign would be a constant flow of traffic, of people coming in and out of a house 24 hours a day. Also, White said to look for burn piles, objects such as acetone cans, bottles of Heet fuel additive, or someone buying large quantities of iodine or matchbooks. All of these highly flammable chemicals are what cause so many meth lab explosions.

&#8220You will definitely notice strange chemical smells coming from the home of a meth dealer,” he said.

&#8220The amazing thing,” White said, &#8220is that it's not really cooking. You are abstracting one oxygen atom out of the pseudoephedrine to make the meth, and some meth users pride themselves on being the best ‘meth cook' or for having the best dope around. A lot of those people really have this fascination with the chemical process or the chemical breakdown of it.”

When it comes to the physical and emotional appearances

of a meth user, White said that a person will experience rapid weight loss, have sunken eyes and hollow cheekbones, and will usually wind up with bad teeth, or what is commonly referred to as &#8220meth mouth,” because of the constant grinding of the teeth.

&#8220Meth users are very paranoid, they are insomniacs, and they basically withdraw from normal daily activities,” he said. &#8220They can have violent mood swings and an overall unkempt appearance. But, the biggest thing to look for is the hyperactivity. They must always be doing something.”

White said that many meth addicts will scratch themselves until they create big sores that are open and raw.

&#8220We call them ‘meth bugs' because the user thinks something is under the skin.”

White said that some of the street names for meth include &#8220ice,” which is actually a different chemical form of meth, &#8220crank,” and &#8220chicken.”

&#8220People will begin to hallucinate because they stay awake for so long,” he said. &#8220Whenever they start to come down off the meth high, that is when they are the most dangerous and when they have the most unpredictable behaviors.”

Another frightening aspect about meth abuse to the average citizen is how this drug can affect anyone without his or her knowledge.

White said that many people will not know that the cars or houses they have bought could have had meth cooked inside them, leaving the dangerous chemicals in the materials and walls.

&#8220Most people don't know that a lot of meth dealers will use hotel rooms for cooking meth and use the coffee pots that are in the rooms,” he said. &#8220They will actually set up a meth lab in the hotel room, cook it, and before they leave, pour all the waste down the toilet. People have been found dead in hotels from where they were cooking meth and were overpowered by the gas fumes.”

White, who started working with Sheriff Charles West in Feb. of 1999, said that Crenshaw County is in better shape than many surrounding counties for a couple of different reasons.

&#8220For one, we don't have a big population when compared to some of the surrounding counties,” he said. &#8220Plus, a lot of people in this county simply won't tolerate it. There are two parts to this – us and the citizens of Crenshaw County.”

&#8220Another reason we have been so successful is because we have the freedom to work cases and arrest offenders without political ramifications,” he said. &#8220The sheriff's office works the cases, and the district attorney's office presents them to the courts.”

&#8220Meth is definitely a plague to our society,” White said. &#8220It robs you of your family members, it takes everything you own, and it certainly does not care.”