Joining the meth battle

Community awareness vital, says task force

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If someone were to put sugar in Dave DeRose's gas tank and hang anti-plumber billboards in Craig, he would realize he's unwanted and take his plumbing business elsewhere.

The Craig mayor is hoping methamphetamine dealers think the same way.

DeRose, Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele and Annette Gianinetti, an administrative assistant in the Moffat County Sheriff's Office, are forming a meth task force to send meth dealers the message that they aren't wanted in Craig.

The task force still is in its infancy, its members say, but they have a basic idea of where they are headed based on a meeting held last week.

"The basis of what we talked about is to bring awareness of it (meth) out so it isn't just law enforcement, it's the whole community that gets together and says we're not going to have this in our community," Steele said.

The county jail has operated at maximum capacity for the past week, and the district attorney is on pace to handle 300 felony cases by 2005.

Law enforcement officials have attributed both increases to meth-related crime.

Many people view meth as a problem only law enforcement can handle, DeRose said.

"They haven't come to the conclusion I have that it's our problem. We'll have to face this as a community," DeRose said.

The task force has scheduled its first meeting at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 5 in Craig City Hall's conference room. Gianinetti is hoping turnout is strong enough that the group will need larger facilities.

She hopes that people will have ideas that the task force can use.

One of the task force's first plans is to post billboards in Craig featuring the faces of meth users when they first started using the drug beside the same faces after years of meth use. The drug's toxins can warp users' faces, twisting their features into a grotesque reflection of what they once were.

"Either way they look scary," Gianinetti said. "You would think someone would think enough of themselves not to do that to themselves."

The billboard campaign was inspired by a trip that Gianinetti's folks took to Cheyenne, Wyo. There, they saw similar billboards funded by an anti-meth initiative of the Wyoming Department of Family Services.

After some inquiry on Gianinetti's part, Lamar Advertising Company promised to sell the task force the vinyl billboard posters for the cost of production.

But the task force still needs to come up with some money for the project.

DeRose hoped some of the funds would come from community donations, but he also suggested that the city could allocate some money in the 2005 budget.

He described it as an "ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure" type solution. By spending money now, the city could prevent residents from becoming meth users, thereby saving the police department money in the future.

Commissioner Les Hampton said the county also might allocate some money in its budget to help fight meth.

"If we are a community in crisis, maybe we need to recognize that before finalizing the budget," Hampton said.

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