Meth use up,but so isenforcement

The use and manufacture of methamphetamine appears to be on the rise once again in Sampson County, with yet another clandestine lab discovered and more arrests made.

It’s a sad testament to the addictions so many people have both here in Sampson County and across the state, and a loud wake-up call to the problems that continue to exist, problems that might begin with a drug habit but usually end with far greater crimes, like burglaries, home invasions, and even murder, taking place.

Addictions first turn solid citizens into whimpering babies, searching hungrily for their drug of choice. And when money becomes an issue, as it always does, then addicts turn from whimpering babies into cold-blooded criminals willing to do whatever it takes to score a dose of meth, a snort of cocaine, a bottle of prescription pills or a needle filled with heroin.

While it might be easier to stick our heads in the sand and pretend the rise in meth use is someone else’s problem, nothing could be farther from the truth. Meth problems, like other drug problems, is the albatross around our collective necks. And we should, at the very least, be aware of their existence.

All it takes is reading the newspaper to see the problems that exist.

Take meth use for example. Already this year, there have been 12 labs discovered and dismantled. That’s three more than Sampson reported in all of 2014. Of course, that’s still far fewer than the reported number in 2013, when a total 27 labs were destroyed by law enforcement officers.

Yet the sudden rise this year leads us to believe that meth’s popularity is returning and with it those who are happy to meet the growing demand.

The numbers speak for themselves. Of the dozen labs already discovered this year, four have been found and destroyed since August 11, and two of those were within two days of each other last week. With just over three months left in the year, if the trend continues, we are likely to edge closer to our 2013 numbers.

The good news is law enforcement officers are both aware of the problem and on top of it. And, in many cases, residents are remaining vigilant eyes and ears for their neighborhoods, reporting suspicious activity when they see it.

We hope that continues. As Sheriff Jimmy Thornton has repeatedly said, law enforcement officers cannot win the drug war alone. There are no crystal balls. Finding meth labs takes a watchful community and diligent investigative work, a team approach that has worked year after year here in Sampson.

While the numbers are disturbing, the blessing in them is that they reflect labs taken down and individuals taken into custody, now charged with plying a trade we must continue to tamp down at every turn.

Realistically we know that waging a war on drugs isn’t going to stop them overnight, but if drug dealers and users know that officers — and law-abiding citizens — are going to remain vigilant in their watch, the likelihood of them continuing is far less.

No question, meth use, and perhaps other drugs as well, is on the rise, but so is enforcement. And we believe strong law enforcement will tip the scales in this community’s favor.