Drugs Go Up In Smoke

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Gila County Sheriff's Department deputies have smoked 101.55 pounds of illegal drugs -- in an incinerator, that is.

Det. George Ratliff watched as the drugs went up in 2800-degree flames at the Cyprus Mine in Globe on Wednesday. The drugs, ranging from pills to opium, were confiscated and held as evidence, some since 1977.

"We had enough stuff to put Walgreens out of business," Ratliff said. He and Deputy Rodney Cronk have taken up the task of cleaning out evidence that is no longer needed and bringing more organization to the way the Payson sheriff's station handles its confiscated property.

While some evidence has been returned or destroyed, much of the property deputies have collected since 1977 was stored in a 40-foot trailer called a Convex, Ratliff said. It is similar to those found on the back of a tractor-trailer.

In 22 years, 800-plus pounds of illegal explosives had also been collected and stored. They have been safely disposed of at the county dump, Ratliff said. "It was mostly fireworks and dynamite," he said.

Statutes require the department to keep evidence until a case is settled by the justice system, at which time the evidence is no longer needed. Getting that type of information from the county attorney's office has been a slow process that Ratliff has pursued in an effort to rid his department of the excess stuff.

"I'm going to be on the county attorney like green on grass (to get that information)," Ratliff said Tuesday.

He and Cronk will be constructing shelves inside the trailer to create a more orderly storage space -- and Ratliff has designed a document, printed in quadruplicate, to create a paper trail for each piece of property that enters the station.

Things that must be documented and stored include bones found in 1995 in See Canyon in the Christopher Creek area. The deceased was never identified and therefore all the evidence collected at the scene must be stored indefinitely.

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