On Special Assignment

Oct 26, 2012 12:34 PM by Irina Cates - KPAX News

Lake County law enforcement battling rise in meth use

POLSON- Methamphetamine problems today are different than they used to be.

Reporter Irina Cates went on Special Assignment and found that no funding, no drug task force and an increase in meth cases have some Lake County investigators looking for ways to combat the drug problem.

Polson Police Chief Wade Nash used to be a drug task force officer, so he knows that when drug prices begin to drop, it means there's not enough enforcement.

"I have people calling me that used to be informants, telling me that the price of drugs is so cheap and you can get drugs anywhere. And not only are we dealing with the meth, we're seeing an influx of cocaine and heroin as well," Nash explained.

"We do have more and more meth coming in from out of the area," added Lake County Sheriff Jay Doyle.

Investigators say people cooking meth is a thing of the past, because it's now easier and cheaper just to buy it.

"Montana implemented a minimum mandatory sentence on meth labs. So what it is, is if you're caught cooking meth, you can be held accountable and you're mandated to serve a certain amount of time. Where if you're just distributing and transporting, there is no minimum mandatory," Nash said.

Investigators believe the bad economy has some people turning to drug trafficking.

"They believe it's easy money, it's dangerous money," Doyle pointed out.

Repeat meth users frequent the Lake County jail, but the drug not only affects them, but the entire community, according to Doyle.

"Once people get addicted to that drug, which is highly addictive, they begin trying to continue their habit. And if they don't have the money, then they will start stealing stuff, burglarizing."

Several Lake County agencies had officers on the Northwest Drug Task Force, but in 2005 federal funding began to dry up, and the county eventually lost its task force.

"We're seeing the aftermath of not having a drug investigator," Nash told us.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office and the Polson Police Department know something needs to be done, but funding is an issue. So the two agencies, as well as area tribal police, are looking for ways to solve the drug problem.

"We are speaking about having a, forming a task force of our own, so that we can combat the problem right here in Lake County," Doyle said.

"Drug investigations are so time consuming. You have to build relationships. You're working all hours of the day, all hours of the night and it's very unpredictable," Nash added.

Regardless of the financial constraints, the Sheriff's Office and Polson Police say they can't ignore the problem, because if they do it will be devastating to their community.

Nash also told us that he hopes to eventually get a narcotics dog that will help them conduct their drug investigations.

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