Project Meth targets drug production

George Wright attends launch of Meth Watch at Sault Ste. Marie Police Service in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (BRIAN KELLY/THE SAULT STAR/POSTMEDIA NETWORK)

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A new program wants business and public tips to help clamp down on production of a “nasty” drug in Sault Ste. Marie.

Meth Watch encourages employees of businesses such as pharmacies and hardware stores, and even residents, who notice suspicious purchases of household products such as starter fluid, matchbooks, rubbing alcohol, cough and allergy medicine that can make methamphetamine to call Crime Stoppers of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District. Crime Stoppers is partnering with Sault Ste. Marie and Area Drug Strategy to bring Project Meth to the city.

The more that we can reduce the availability of (methamphetamine) in the community, the better our community is,” said strategy community consultant George Wright during Meth Watch’s launch Thursday at Sault Ste. Marie Police Service.

Many seizures” of methamphetamine and “a number of arrests” have been made in the city over the last three to four years, Insp. Brent Duguay told The Sault Star.

Meth is absolutely in our community,” he said.

Number of meth-related dates in the past year was not available. Algoma Public Health’s 2015-2016 Community Health Profile reported 3.2 per cent of Algoma residents reported using amphetamines, such as speed or crystal meth, in their lifetime. The provincial aveage is 2.9 per cent.

Wright, who works out of Neighbourhood Resource Centre as an options navigator with the John Howard Society, said meth use in the city is “relatively high” based on his experience.

We need to deal with it,” he said. Wright called methamphetamine, also known as speed, crank, or ice, “a nasty chemical” that alters brain chemistry and can result in permanent brain damage or psychotic behaviour for some users.

They cannot return to normal behaviour,” he said.

Meth can be inhaled, injected or taken orally.

Project Meth began in the United States. The program is active in several Canadian cities including Ottawa and Vancouver. Its introduction in the Sault last fall gives residents “a way to report” suspicious purchases of household products that can be used to make methamphetamine, said Wright.

Allison McFarlane, a public health nurse at Algoma Public Health and drug strategy co-chair, is hopeful Project Meth will have a similar impact as Kansas where the program started and, said Wright, saw a 27 per cent drop in the number of meth labs three years after its launch.

We’d like to see what happened in Kansas – that huge reduction in production and risks associated with production and use of crystal myth,” said McFarlane.

Some businesses have already signed on with Project Meth in the Sault. There’s no cost to participate.

We have quite a few,” said McFarlane of participation to date. “There’s a lot of businesses in town that sell the supplies.”

Email McFarlane at amcfarlane@algomapublichealth.com or Desiree Beck at dbeck2018@outlook.com to participate.

Project Meth’s start follows a change in Canadian law in December that allows police to check any driver for alcohol consumption. Wright acknowledges it’s possible someone who purchases goods such as rock salt, lye, coffee filters and propane tanks for legitimate reasons could be reported as part of Project Meth.

Sometimes you have to look at the greater good,” he told reporters.

Tips made to Crime Stoppers are relayed to city police for possible probing.

There’s going to have to be some thought put into how far that investigation is going to go depending on the information they receive,” said Duguay. “Every case will be assessed differently and every case will have its own merits before we move forward.”

Police could review security camera footage to identify purchasers or speak with store staff and security officers.

Crime Stoppers of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District received 1,405 new tips in 2018. Seventy-nine arrests were made. Eighty-seven cases were cleared with 201 charges made. Seven weapons, $15,000 in stolen property and narcotics with a street value of $14,000 were seized.

Anonymous tips can be made by calling 705-942-7867 or 800-222-8477. Mobile app is p3tips.com

Persons with information leading to an arrest can receive up to $2,000.

btkelly@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @Saultreporter

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