By Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager
Wisconsin law enforcement officials know better than most citizens the costs and increasing dangers of the growing methamphetamine problem. I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the state and meet with many of you to discuss how to better serve you as we fight this problem together.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice Methamphetamine Initiative is one of our most important tools in this effort. It is funded by a federal grant provided to combat the growing problem of methamphetamine and clandestine laboratories (or meth labs) in Wisconsin.
The Initiative is home to our Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) task force, made up of approximately 100 clandestine laboratory-certified city, county and state law enforcement officers.
The task force members are trained in dismantling and obtaining evidentiary samples from the meth lab sites. We also coordinate our efforts with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to provide a hazardous material contractor to remove the toxic materials from sites.
The state agents on the CLEAR task force are called Site Safety Officers, and among their responsibilities is the paperwork that must accompany each lab investigation. The Site Safety Officers and the Meth Initiative ensures that proper protocol is followed for the safety of all team members and the general public, and to ensure that the proper notifications are made on each case so that the clean-up of the site is properly paid for by the DEA funds set aside for that purpose.
All training, medical monitoring, equipment, disposable supplies, mandatory reporting, OSHA compliance and reimbursement for overtime hours are provided by the DOJ Meth Initiative. This is one way we can assist city, county, and state agencies from being financially burdened by the expensive tasks related to these types of investigations.
The Methamphetamine Initiative also provides training and education to numerous groups on methamphetamine and clandestine laboratory detection and safety – especially local Wisconsin law enforcement. Other groups trained in education and prevention include emergency services personnel, educators, medical professionals, social service agencies, health departments, environmental officials, agricultural and public utility groups.
The numbers of meth labs are increasing across the nation and in Wisconsin, especially in rural communities not used to this kind of drug activity. The clean-up costs from the toxic waste created in these labs continues to skyrocket. The cost to the natural environment is also high.
To help prevent future problems with meth, Wisconsin is among the states across the nation implementing Drug Endangered Children (DEC) programs, which direct dollars, information and resources to the children harmed by drug environments.
DEC programs bring together professionals from many fields. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, child protection workers, health department professionals, and medical professionals work together to help these young and often silent victims of drug environments and drug crimes. By educating the persons closest to these children about the harmful effects of drugs and drug crime, and how to prevent such crimes, we save not only valuable resources but often the very lives of these kids.
On May 10 and 11, 2005, the Wisconsin Department of Justice will co-sponsor DEC training in Chippewa Falls. The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children will help provide the training and information on the effects of meth and drug environments on children, how to work together within the DEC team concept, how to investigate and prosecute DEC cases and gather resources to provide assistance to these young victims.
An announcement and brochures on this training and future training are forthcoming. Please let me know whenever I or members of my staff can assist you with additional information about our fight together against meth