Meth Comes To Payson From Mexico

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Getting the community's help in fighting the war against methamphetamines was the focus of a Wednesday night forum at Gila Community College on the Payson campus.

The forum, which about 50 people attended, was titled "Methamphetamine: a community response."

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Deputy County Attorney Patti Wortman spoke about the penalties for the use, transportation and sell of the drug.

Representatives from the Payson Police Department, Gila County Attorney's Office, Gila County Narcotics Task Force and the Tonto Apache Tribe were on hand to talk about the drug and its effects. Deputy County Attorney Patti Wortman spoke about the penalties for the use, transportation and sale of the drug.

After a 20-minute video, titled "Meth Shadow Across Mexico," Jason Hazelo, head of the Payson Police Department Narcotics Task Force, said most drug users are using more than one illegal substance.

He said a meth user will show signs, including irritability, dry mouth, grinding of teeth, increased alertness, exaggerated reflexes and paranoia.

He said users of the drug are everywhere and asked the audience to help the task force find people involved with the drug.

"Whether you are at the casino or at Wal-Mart, you don't want these people driving a car, watching kids or raising kids," Hazelo said.

The Payson Police officer showed before and after pictures of a few people to show how the drug can take over a person's life.

"People don't realize what it does to the body, but it destroys it," Hazelo said.

He said people need to realize that drug usage affects everyone because an addict will drive under the influence, commit burglaries, domestic violence, shoplifting and car thefts.

Hazelo showed a surveillance tape of a man gambling at the Mazatzal Casino to show some tendencies of a person on meth.

"If they are not working, they have to do something to support their habit," he said.

Jack Johnson of the Gila County Narcotics Task Force gave the audience a brief overview of what law enforcement agencies do to fight methamphetamines.

"You can't help us if you don't understand what we do," he said, mentioning that there are four phases of the drug trade: production, transportation, transactions and usage.

He said meth can be fought through aggressive legislation, law enforcement, prosecution and a quality rehabilitation program.

Johnson said the drug is being made in Mexico and is being transported by vehicle to Payson.

"You are not just fighting meth," he said. "It destroys the core value of the community."

He said small communities like Payson have limitations because everyone knows everyone, so undercover agents and informants are not plausible.

He asked the public to educate themselves, support legislation and funding, be a voice and to ask for help.

"If you have those suspicions call us," he said. "We need help here. I need help here."

Byron Henderson, an officer from the Tonto Apache Tribal Police Department, said the biggest help law enforcement can receive is having the public tell them what is going on.

"We really need your help," he said. "People see things all the time. Everyone knows what is normal and what is not."

Wortman used a prop to show the audience varying amounts of the drug and the penalties.

Usage of the drug usually involves mandatory probation and treatment, she said. However as of March 29, 2006, anyone convicted of selling or transporting drugs will receive the presumptive term of 10 years for the first offense.

"The Legislature has given us some teeth," she said.

She said meth usage has a direct correlation with other crimes, especially burglaries and other property crimes.

She said receiving tips from the community is vital.

"It's really important that we have the help of the community," Wortman said. "We can't do our job without law enforcement and law enforcement cannot do their job without you."

After the video presentation, Darlene Duncan of Southwest Behavioral Health Services, the forum's sponsor, asked the audience to "help us in the fight against meth."

See related story:

Meth coalition issues a call for action

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