Ithaca, N.Y. — Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing is welcoming proposed New York senate legislation that targets meth manufacturers, but says it is not a total solution to the problem.
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State senator Tom O’Mara last month reintroduced the legislation that would increase the criminal penalty for meth manufacturers. One of the provisions calls for the penalty for those convicted of operating a meth lab for the second time in five years to increase from Class B to Class A-1, which is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Lansing, who added that the public needs to be educated about the drug’s severity and its biohazard risk, said that he thought the measure could help.
“I am glad that people are paying attention high up and they are trying to help us with making stiffer laws…These kinds of things will help, but I don’t want anybody to think it’s going to be a quick fix, because it surely will not be,” Lansing said.
The legislation has been approved by the senate for the past few years but is stalled in the state Assembly.
O’Mara said the legislation was introduced not in response to any one particular incident, but to several over the past several years.
Sheriff Lansing said that meth is not as big a concern in Tompkins County as it is in surrounding counties.
“It’s here, I am not denying that. It just doesn’t seem like we are bumping into it as much as heroin — not yet, anyway,” he said.
Neighboring Chemung county in 2006 implemented a program titled “R.A.M: Rid Area of Meth,” which focuses on enforcement and education. Similarly, Steuben County has a Drug Interdiction Plan. In 2012, there were 127 meth lab incidents in New York State, according to the Drug Enforcement Authority. This was more than three times the number reported in 2011.
Officer Jamie Williamson of the Ithaca Police Department said trends in Ithaca did not reflect a similar increase. The IPD is currently prioritizing addressing the city’s ongoing heroin rise.
“Meth is certainly a concern to us but we have to prioritize and manage our resources,” Williamson said.
Last year, Ithaca police investigated a suspected mobile meth lab found on Green Street. Furthermore, Cornell University is awaiting test results after materials found on campus were household chemicals suspected to be used the production of methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine labs pose a risk to the environment owing to the risk of toxic waste and explosions. It tends to be manufactured in people’s homes, said Bill Rusen, CEO of Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services.
“Usually, people are making this in their domicile so they are in a situation where they may be making it literally on the stovetop,” he said.
Nearly 2 percent of cases at CARS in 2014 indicated meth as a primary substance, while 2.3 percent had it as a secondary substance.
Rusen is spearheading a committee assembled by Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick that will break drug policy into law enforcement, treatment, prevention and harm reduction. Myrick this year called for drugs to be addressed “as a problem of public health.”