Meth Crackdown

December 22, 2008 2:14:11 PM PST
North Valley Authorities are launching an assault on methamphetamine manufacturers.Agents arrested nine people and served six search warrants at locations in Merced, Livingston, and Turlock over the weekend.

Meth is not only linked to higher crime rates, but can also contaminate the areas where the drug waste is dumped.

That's why the Sheriff's Department says eliminating manufacturing operations is a matter of public safety.

This table full of weapons shows just some of the items agents from Merced County, Fresno County, and Stanislaus County seized as part of a 36 hour methamphetamine crackdown.

Mark Pazin, Merced Co. Sheriff: "Our officers and allied agencies seized money, guns, and actually came across two hand grenades believe it or not."

Deputies also arrested five men and four women in three different cities and raided two meth manufacturing operations, including this one in Turlock.

Sheriff Mark Pazin calls it a successful operation, but says he's concerned because Merced County continues to lead the state in meth-related incidents.

Pazin: "500 methamphetamine labs and/or dump sites have occurred here specifically in Merced County over the past few years."

So far this year, agents have already found 21 labs and dump sites. They say drug manufacturers often dispose of the toxic waste in orchards and canals, which can contaminate the land and irrigation water.

"It's probably once a week you can find it in this area."

Hartley Spycher says he's found drug waste on his Peach Orchard near Ballico and believes the problem is only getting worse.

Hartley Spycher, Merced County Resident: "When we came out here we didn't even have a key to lock the door and now we've got security cameras and alarms and everything else."

Farmers aren't the only ones dealing with the consequences of the County's drug problem. Sheriff Pazin says meth users are often behind identity theft and burglaries, and state tax dollars are used to pay for dump site clean-up efforts.

Sheriff Pazin says meth clean-up efforts in Merced County have cost nearly one million dollars over the past five years.

Now he's asking for more state and federal assistance to continue the meth crackdown.