The Cold War on Meth
There she stood in juvenile court, if one could call it standing. She was constantly in motion, her head swaying from side to side, gaze downward, never making eye contact with the judge. She was gaunt, aged and the few words she said were barely coherent.
Kids in the audience murmured.
‘Is she on drugs?’
‘Is something wrong with her?’
The judge asked if she wanted her child, a juvenile offender, released to her or left in the care of the state.
‘To home,’ she said.
It was done. There was no proven reason to do otherwise. The woman fit the profile of a meth addict, but was she?
Just a few days later, Tracy Dunaway, 32, and Dia Glenn, 34, were horribly burned when a fire ignited suddenly in a home police said contained a methamphetamine lab and a yellow tape that read, ‘Beware Men Cooking.’
Dunaway and meth had a history. He was widely believed to be back on the drug, and his family was expecting word of his arrest at anytime.
Glenn had no known experience with the stimulant. Her mother, Linda Byrd, expressed disbelief after the fire.
‘I know my daughter. She wouldn’t be involved in anything like that,’ Byrd said. ‘She’s always burning candles, and I think that’s what caused the fire.’
Byrd was arrested Feb. 18, 2002, and charged with manufacturing meth, possession of precursors with the intent to manufacture meth, and maintaining a common nuisance. A car on her premises contained a meth lab and a quantity of methamphetamine, Crawford County Sheriff Richard Scott said.
After Dunaway and Glenn were burned, ‘We found items associated with meth labs in a car in the garage,’ Indiana State Police Trooper Jackie Smith said.
The car was registered to Glenn.
Months earlier, Glenn passed by and someone whispered it.
Go to some of Harrison County’s less pleasant places, particularly at odd hours, and chances are it won’t take long before someone who fits the profile makes an appearance.
Meth addiction is marked by rapid weight loss, premature aging, restlessness, paranoia and sometimes even by rotten teeth and open, festering sores. As with most other substance abuse, things like personal hygiene and appearance eventually receive little or no attention from the addict. Meth production creates noxious fumes that are difficult to hide.
Picking addicts out of a crowd requires that unpopular word: ‘Profiling.’
Or just ask around. Put a list together. It’s sickeningly easy in a community where everyone knows everything about one another.
And it’s completely pointless.
Chief Gary Gilley says he already knows who they are.
Unless they’re new to the community or new to meth, Gilley says he has the names of every cooker and every user in Harrison County. He doesn’t say this to discourage tips. He wants all of those he can get.
Gilley said the home where Dunaway and Glenn were burned was under suspicion prior to the incident, but there wasn’t enough information to obtain a warrant.
Whether or not one believes Gilley knows as much as he says he knows, it’s apparent that despite efforts at seclusion and evasion, many of Harrison County’s meth addicts have been exposed and are publicly known.
Gilley said the window of opportunity for an arrest is small, only about eight hours if the entire production process is performed under the same roof. He describes a multi-stage effort where production is done in several homes by several individuals, one stage at a time. It sounds like organized crime.
The following two incidents and interviews occurred in 2003.
Acting on a tip, Gilley knocked on Melvin E. McKim’s door and McKim, 54, answered and invited Gilley and other officers in.
‘Immediately after entering the kitchen, I observed a glass or ‘meth’ pipe with burnt residue and a butane lighter in an ashtray on one of the kitchen cabinets,’ Gilley said in the police report.
In plain view were several propane cylinders and torches also commonly associated with the manufacture and smoking of methamphetamine.
McKim told Gilley he ‘didn’t want me to search the home any further.’
Gilley left to obtain a search warrant while the other officers ‘secured’ the area. Four individuals were subsequently arrested at the home.
Acting on yet another tip, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. raided a secluded residence above Morvin’s Landing just east of Mauckport. One suspect, Steven Springer III, 22, fled into the dark on foot and ran off a 70-foot cliff, falling onto large rocks in an abandoned quarry.
Those incidents represent the kind of ineptitude that this writer has come to expect of those involved with methamphetamine.
While I applaud the courage of law enforcement in dealing with dangerous and unpredictable members of meth culture, the paradoxes of enforcement puzzle me and perhaps you, too.
Does Harrison County need more manpower? Probably so.
Does red tape bind the hands of officers? Probably so.
If this is a War on Meth, we need more weapons.