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Prosecutor: Number of meth cases drops in Putnam County

Monday, March 12, 2007

County prosecutor announces the number of methamphetamine cases in the county has dropped since the implementation of the "Stop Meth" program.

Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter introduced the five-part program back in 2005, and it has had much success since its beginning.

"This is one of those instances when the system really worked, even beyond what I thought was possible in such a short period of time," Bookwalter said.

The program starts off with law enforcement officials aggressively pursuing meth dealers, followed by high bond for meth cases and lengthy prison sentences for dealers.

Meth users will receive a short term incarceration under the program, and will be followed by electronic monitoring and a daily treatment program.

The program also consists of implementing a county wide public education on what meth is, why it is bad and what type of punishment one will receive is using or dealing the substance.

Along with the program, Governor Mitch Daniels signed Senate Enrolled Act 444 into law, making it the state's strongest weapon in the ongoing battle against meth production.

Under this law, all retailers of pharmaceuticals are required to keep medications that contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine behind the counter. Because medicines like Sudafed and Benadryl, which contain these ingredients, have been linked to the production of meth, they have been removed from store shelves.

Those wishing to purchase these medications have to provide a photo ID, and may have to provide specific information or sign the Indiana State Police log.

Before the implementation of the "Stop Meth" program, the number of meth cases that were seen by the county court system doubled nearly each year. Bookwalter said the number of cases began to double in 2003 with 25 cases, followed by 44 in 2004 and 75 in 2005.

According to Bookwalter, after the program and the state's new meth law were implemented, the number of meth-related arrests dropped from 75 to 25 in the span of a year.

"Most other counties have seen some decrease but nothing like the drop in Putnam County. I had an undercover state police detective tell me that the dealers left out there know how tough Putnam County has been on meth, and they conduct business elsewhere," Bookwalter said.

Bookwalter gives most of the credit for the program's success to law enforcement officials, the courts and his staff.

So does this mean that the production of meth and the selling of meth will no longer be a problem in the county? Bookwalter says no.

He said Friday, that the county courts have already seen two meth cases for this year. But it is uncertain how many more will follow.

"2007 will tell the story of whether 2006 was just aberration. That's why everyone has to be vigilant and keep our focus on meth," Bookwalter said.

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