REWARDS UP TO $2000 TO BE GIVEN FOR METH-LAB TIPS
Crime Stoppers teams up with Fresno County Sheriff's Department in effort.
Joining forces with the Fresno County Sheriff's Department to attack the methamphetamine problem in the county, Crime Stoppers has agreed to offer rewards of up to $2,000 for tips that lead investigators to working meth labs.
Historically, Crime Stoppers has only paid rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to arrests of people accused of committing crimes.
Sheriff Margaret Mims said the board gave her a resounding "yes" when she asked whether Crime Stoppers would agree to pay rewards for information on working meth labs even if no arrests were made.
Mims said Fresno County is believed to be the only one in the state with such an agreement with Crime Stoppers. She and sheriff's Lt. Bob Kandarian, a board member of the local crime-fighting program, announced the new agreement Wednesday.
Crime Stoppers started in Albuquerque, N.M., in 1976 and has grown into an international program with hundreds of chapters in 22 countries. The Sheriff's Department became involved with the program shortly after it arrived in Fresno in 1993.
Robert Pennal, commander of the Fresno Meth Task Force, said the new reward policy is important because, despite significant arrests and major crackdowns, methamphetamine continues to be the No. 1 drug problem throughout the world.
"An estimated 26 million people worldwide are addicted to meth," he said.
The price of meth has skyrocketed, Pennal said, as new laws have restricted the sales of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and other ingredients used to make it. One pound of methamphetamine costs $18,000 to $19,500, he said.
This has attracted more interest from drug cartels throughout the world, including Columbia, Mexico and Canada. "We're seeing a lot of activity in the drug," he said.
During fiscal year 2006, Pennal said, there were 227 reported meth lab operations in the state, with 168 of those seized by the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area ( HIDTA ) between Sacramento and Bakersfield. Mims noted that during that period, Fresno County was ranked second in the number of reported meth labs, topped only by Stanislaus County.
Mims said the manufacture of meth also brings a high health risk to the public, as each abandoned lab leaves behind toxic chemicals that pollute the environment and can cause serious health problems.
Pennal estimated that since 2000, when the Central Valley HIDTA was formed and started tracking meth labs, about 5 million to 7 million pounds of hazardous waste from the labs has been dumped on private and public lands.