JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The meth problem is becoming so widespread across North Florida that local sheriff’s offices are having a tough time keeping up, especially monetarily.
“You get a basic lab, it can cost you anywhere from a thousand dollars up,” said Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter.
“The average is around $1,500 to $2,000 per meth lab,” said St. Johns County Sheriff’s spokesman Chuck Mulligan.
Action News has learned local sheriff’s offices’ are scrambling to afford the cost of cleaning up meth – one of the fastest growing abused drugs in North Florida.
Here in Jacksonville it costs $2,500 to $3,500 each time the narcotics unit dismantles a meth lab and it appears the problem is only getting worse.
“Meth manufacturing has evolved and increased dramatically over the past ten years,” said JSO public information officer Melissa Bujeda.
“Certainly, as the economy gets worse people are turning to cheap drugs and it’s costing us more money to deal with it,” Mulligan said.
In Columbia County, where meth abuse this year is on track to more than double last year, Hunter says budget is one of his biggest concerns. They used to have access to federal funds to help alleviate the cleanup costs, but not anymore.
“That dried up about a year and a half to two years ago. So the money isn’t there. They’ve cut that money,” Hunter explained.
It now comes entirely out of local sheriff offices budgets, which across the state have been slashed repeatedly over the last few years.
“That’s putting a larger burden on the taxpayers of St. Johns County,” said Mulligan.
And across the entire state, as everyone works to fight a problem that seems too big, and too expensive to fight.
Sheriff Hunter says he’s reached out to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state legislature asking for help with this problem.
He hopes money comes through soon.