Meth busts have tripled in Gulfport

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport detectives say they can quadruple the number of officers working methamphetamine cases, and still not get a handle on the city's meth explosion. Narcotics officers have made 36 meth arrests this year. That made just 14 in 2008.

Detectives say the next step to snuff out meth manufacturers is up to the Mississippi legislature. The officers are working with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics on a way to reword state law, and restrict the flow of Sudafed to meth makers. Why Sudafed? Because it's the main ingredient used to manufacture meth.

Rob Enochs is the lead narcotics officer for the Gulfport Police Department.

"It's not against the law for anyone to buy one box of Sudafed," he said. "It's not against the law to buy lithium batteries."

But if you mix those products together in a plastic soda bottle, and add fertilizer or salt, you'll create meth. And Enochs said, you'll be breaking the law.

"My unit could spend seven days a week nothing but working methamphetamine if I had the time to just do that," he said.

The items Enochs spread across a table reportedly came from a meth lab uncovered inside an apartment that Gulfport narcotics officers raided two weeks ago. Two people, including a 17 year old, went to jail.

Leonard Papania is Gulfport's deputy police chief.

"If we're going to just fight it on the street and not go after the laws surrounding the precursors, I think it's going to get away from us," Papania said.

Gulfport detectives met with Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents this week. They discussed different ways lawmakers in Jackson can reword crime fighting legislation, to make it a lot tougher for meth makers to get their hands on these little white cold medication pills.

"This is every day. This is all night long. These 24 hour pharmacies, they're buying Sudafed all night long," Enochs said.

Consequently, Deputy Chief Papania said, "Our drug unit is working more and more of these cases."

That drug unit currently has five narcotics officers, and they're uncovering more meth labs than anytime in the city's past. Because of the increase in meth cases, the department is training six other officers to learn how to clean meth labs, so the hazardous mixture of chemicals is properly disposed of.

"The more people we have targeting this, the harder it is for these guys to get away with it," Enochs said.

The head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics is Marshall Fisher. He told WLOX News his agency is fine tuning the language it would like in legislation that limits the access meth makers have to pseudoephdrine products. The MBN recommendation should be presented to lawmakers before the 2010 session opens.

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