Comments Off on Police link Methamphetamine to 41 percent of Napa County crime

To Napa Police Lt. Gary Pitkin, methamphetamine abuse in Napa County has a direct link to a litany of other crimes that impact residents — theft, burglary, fraud, illegal firearm possession, and armed robbery.

Pitkin told the Napa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that 41 percent of all crimes countywide in 2013 were related to methamphetamine abuse.

Pitkin leads the Napa Special Investigations Bureau, which devotes three-quarters of its resources and time to investigating methamphetamine traffickers in Napa County.

Accordingly, in 2013 Pitkin said the bureau’s arrests were 68 percent meth-related. He said 70 percent of those arrested had histories involving other crimes such as burglary, theft, fraud, and robbery, among others.

“There is an absolute tangible nexus between meth and crime,” Pitkin told the supervisors. “Meth use and abuse is not a victimless crime.”

Even worse, methamphetamine abuse has impacts stretching beyond criminal activity. Abusers are prone to greater rates of homelessness, or abandoning their families. Meth-use is connected to half of the county’s child protective services cases.

Chief Probation Officer Mary Butler said the drug is also becoming more prevalent in juvenile criminal cases, as Juvenile Hall has seen an increase in teenagers booked under the influence of methamphetamine.

“Alcohol is still number one for the youth, but meth is catching up,” Butler said. “We’re definitely seeing that impact at the juvenile level.”

Supervisor Keith Caldwell requested the informational presentation after noticing an uptick in news coverage of meth-related crimes recently, but said he wanted more data on whether there was a discernible trend in meth usage in the county.

He said he wanted more than a year’s worth of crime data to determine if a trend existed. Meth is a highly addictive drug, and addicts are reticent to seek treatment, he said.

“Are we seeing a trend toward methamphetamine becoming more and more the reason we have the crime,” Caldwell asked. “There’s a cost to the community. Unless you hit rock bottom you are not going to seek treatment.”

Chief Corrections Officer Lenard Vare noted that the Napa County jail sees methamphetamine abuse in its inmates, many of whom are booked in repeatedly for various crimes. But the jail can’t offer treatment, and the inmates are frequently released before any kind of outreach can happen.

“They get released before we can do much,” Vare said. “It’s a triage center. Usually jails are the last place where you try and deal with these kinds of things.”

Combating the drug’s impact requires detox and in-patient and out-patient treatment programs, Butler said. The county has these programs, including the Wolfe Center for teenagers, but more resources could be spent in fighting the problem, she said.

Butler, Caldwell and other panelists advocated for doing more to educate parents on the signs their child could be abusing methamphetamine, allowing for early intervention, and other prevention techniques.

“I don’t think we do a good enough job of educating parents on what to look for,” Butler said. “Any prevention has to include that parent component.”

Caldwell said he was open to using county funding and resources to improve the prevention efforts. The county is building a new jail, but it could be filled with inmates addicted to methamphetamine, he said. He supported that effort along with improving treatment options and law enforcement agencies’ abilities to deter the drug’s availability in Napa County.

“Are we doing all that we can at the prevention level — at the juvenile level,” Caldwell asked. “We can fill that jail. There’s no question. I am open to county resources.”




Comments are closed.