County In Rural Fla. Panhandle Fights War On Meth

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The Holmes County Sheriff’s Office in Florida’s Panhandle is located in a a narrow, two-story converted home with green shag carpet on most floors. From there, the Miami Herald reports, Sheriff Dennis Lee is directing 15 men who try to cope with the county’s methamphetamine plague, raiding farmhouses and campers in the thick forests. The Herald says that the junkies are smart, and the sheriff’s deputies are aggressive. The problem is growing while the budget is not, and things are going to get worse before they get better. Still, Lee says, “We have declared war on meth in Holmes County.”

Meth arrived about 11 months ago to the county of 18,564, Lee said, a straight shot across Interstate 10 from a superlab in California. Addiction burned through the social strata like fire. Rich and poor, old and young, meth spares no one here. Any fool with an Internet connection and $200 can, like magic, make a batch of crank. California motorcycle gangs are believed to be the first true junkies, injecting speed in the 1970s. Truckers grew fond of it in the 1980s, although federal officials think the recent phenomenon blossomed in the early 1990s alongside the club drug Ecstasy.

Users liked the new crystal meth for its boost, a high that lasted for days. The drug swept across the Midwest, creeping to the Atlantic coast during a decade of experimentation. Rural, low-income counties such as Holmes and others in the Panhandle were hit particularly hard. The culture of meth is arguably the biggest hurdle for law enforcement in Holmes County. The labs are mobile and the addicts increasingly violent. Deputies recently busted a lab and found it booby-trapped with a mouse trap and a shotgun shell. A tiny screw acted as the firing pin, blasting a bullet through a two-by-four should intruders trip a piece of fishing wire.


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