The Meth Mess: Special forces put in place to deal with growing - Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

The Meth Mess: Special forces put in place to deal with growing problem

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The West Central Illinois Task Force made one of its biggest meth lab busts on Jan. 7, 2013, on Quincy's northwest side. (H-W File Photo/Michael Kipley) The West Central Illinois Task Force made one of its biggest meth lab busts on Jan. 7, 2013, on Quincy's northwest side. (H-W File Photo/Michael Kipley)
By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Pat Frazier, who heads up the West Central Illinois Task Force, says he can spot a methamphetamine user a mile away.

“They have a look about them,” he said. “They’re not healthy looking. They act different than other people who are going into (a drugstore) to buy something legitimately.”

Frazier can pull up to a store and find the person who is there to fuel his or her meth habit. The person may drop someone else off to buy pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the meth-making process, then circle back around a few minutes later to pick him or her up. The task force officer sees this happen with regularity, including a day last fall when he was on patrol.

Frazier tells the tale of a man who dropped off his girlfriend outside a Quincy pharmacy. She went inside and bought pseudoephedrine pills. The woman was blocked from buying pills the day before because of Illinois’ pseudoephedrine purchase limits, but she was back and good to buy the next day.

At that point, Frazier knew his team had another case to track.

Not that they needed the extra work.

Frazier is part of a crime-fighting unit whose main purpose is fighting the region’s drug problem. While they still deal with things like heroin, cocaine and marijuana, the task force’s main battle is the meth problem that makes Adams County differ from the rest of the state. Of the 97 meth labs seized by the Quincy-based Illinois State Police Meth Response Team in 2012, 78 were in Adams County. No county in the state had more meth lab raids than Adams County did that year.

The task force has seven officers from four area law enforcement agencies. Two members of the Quincy Police Department, two Adams County sheriff’s deputies and one deputy each from the Brown County and Pike County sheriff’s departments are on the force. They are led by Frazier, a master sergeant with the Illinois State Police.

The officers’ job is to investigate cases that could lead to search warrants and arrests.

In addition to the task force, the response team has five officers dedicated to working cases. Their workload has ballooned over the past four years. Roll said the response team seized 38 labs in 2009 in a 10-county area made up of Adams, Brown, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, McDonough, Pike, Schuyler, Scott and Warren counties. The 97 labs seized in 2012 represents a 155 percent increase in workload.

The response team has the duty of cleaning up the mess left by those who are caught by the task force.

“We are chasing a problem,” Adams County State’s Attorney Jon Barnard said. “They didn’t just decide and say, ‘Hey let’s put a whole bunch of people in Adams County and see what happens.’ This is a call to arms.

“We have a Meth Response Team, which is a specialized team to dispose of these toxic substances. We have that because we have so many meth labs. We know how toxic this stuff is. We have the resources here to deal with it and, yes, we are very aggressive, but we have to be aggressive.”

Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer said one of the best ways to fight the problem is to educate people about meth.

“I have lot of people who will ask me about the meth problem,” Fischer said. “When we tell them about it, they’re glad they ask because they know what to look for. To have two people dedicated to the task force full time is a big participation by us. We do what we can to support the state and them keeping the MRT in this area.”

dobrien@whig.com/221-3370
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