Meth & Crime

By Officer Kirk Buchanan, Los Angeles Police Department

The connection between drug abuse and crime is well established. Simply having an illicit drug in your possession constitutes the crime of possession. This is the most obvious example, but the relationship between drugs and crime certainly does not stop there. Drugs facilitate illegal activity both directly and indirectly merely by existing. By understanding how drugs as well as their users affect their surroundings, it's possible to develop a strategy that confronts this social evil head on.

Law enforcement officials identify 3 different types of crime that stems from drugs. Drug-defined crimes are those that involve buying, selling, or manufacturing the material in question. As previously stated, merely having an illegal drug on your person is a criminal offense. But drugs don't appear out of nowhere. They are manufactured somewhere just like every other product. Once they are ready for distribution, they must be transported and ultimately dispersed into the hands of customers. The drug supply chain ends up creating a huge network of offenders along the way as the physical substance moves closer to the final consumer. This is especially true of so-called designer drugs as opposed to naturally occurring substances, such as marijuana. Almost anyone can grow marijuana for his or her personal use in the privacy of a home. While most users do not actually nurture the plants themselves, the possibility for private cultivation alters the supply chain's dynamics. Marijuana is fairly unique in this regard because no other drug has this kind of widespread potential for sustainable yet isolated individual support.

Methamphetamine, on the other hand, is a synthetic substance that cannot be created without a certain degree of expertise along with steady access to the necessary ingredients. Meth is made out of a variety of other chemicals, some of which can be bought over the counter at regular drug or hardware stores. However, obtaining these substances in large quantities is costly and attracts unwanted attention. Consequently, many methamphetamine addicts end up stealing them or acquiring them on the black market. Either way, their actions are against the law. Several states have placed additional restrictions on medications that contain pseudoephedrine, which can be used to make crystal meth. Some have made it available by prescription only or require people to show identification when buying anything that has pseudoephedrine in it. This leaves addicts no choice but to commit fraud in order to get their hands on this key component. They have been known to generate fake ids or steal someone else's identity to accomplish this task.

Once enough meth is made or "cooked," it usually exchanges hands numerous times before it reaches the end consumer. A significant portion of the methamphetamine that comes into the United States travels across the Mexican border. Some of it originates in Mexico, but other nations, including Columbia and the Philippines, are well known for their contribution to the trafficking trade. Bringing methamphetamine across international borders violates multiple statutes, along with United Nations resolutions. Of course, a large amount of methamphetamine is made domestically, mostly in the western United States. California, in particular, is a center for distribution as lots of drugs move from there into the rest of the nation. Shipping or otherwise transporting any illegal materials across state lines automatically places the transgression within the realm of federal jurisdiction. Intrastate transactions are placed under the control of state and municipal level authorities.

Another kind of drug crime is referred to as "drug-related offenses." These violations are committed by depraved individuals in the depths of crystal methamphetamine addiction, heroin, dependence, etc. or as a consequence of participation in the informal economy. The classic example of a drug-related offense is a desperate addict stealing to support his or her habit. Indeed, addicts often engage in theft from retail establishments, family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, employers, random victims, and other users to sustain their insatiable appetites for dope. They may also participate in robberies, home invasions, muggings, kidnappings, and a host of similar misdeeds. Drug-related offenses encompass violations committed when the addict is under the influence and thus not behaving as he or she would in sobriety. For example, alcoholics tend to become aggressive when they're intoxicated. This leads them to get involved in physical altercations, such as bar fights or domestic violence. Street gangs killing rivals over territory are another instance of drug-related offenses.

The final classification of drug crimes is considered part of the "drug lifestyle." Not all meth addicts or junkies are born hardened thugs, but being in a toxic environment filled with shady characters may turn them into habitual miscreants. Exposure to underground criminal culture becomes an education of sorts. Impressionable addicts learn the ins and outs of unlawful enterprise without even realizing it. Through the contacts they make in the drug world, generally law abiding addicts are given ample opportunities to participate in non-drug related affairs. They become focused on the here and now instead of achieving long term goals. This short-sighted attitude minimizes the consequences of spending time in jail or prison. In fact, the threat of incarceration loses its deterrent effect at this stage of immoral assimilation.

Statistics demonstrate factual evidence of these disturbing trends. The vast majority of individuals that are arrested test positive for drugs or are clearly impaired at the time of apprehension. Lots of them admit that obtaining money for drugs provided their motivation behind their actions. This pattern holds true for offenses that have nothing to do with property of any kind, too. For instance, alcohol inebriation accounts for a substantial amount of traffic related offenses. This applies to much more than the obvious DUI; drunk drivers cause accidents, run red lights, and operate their vehicles in a reckless manner.

Research supports the logical conclusion that investing in drug treatment decreases crime rates. Sober individuals are far less likely to drive carelessly, steal, or resort to violence. Additionally, reducing or eliminating the demand for illicit substances puts the dealers on the supply side out of business. The cartels employ large scale violence on a routine basis, and are thus 100 times more dangerous than a mere individual grappling with methamphetamine addiction. Implementing demand reduction programs, such as rehabilitation centers, benefits not just American society, but the entire world.

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