Jury says more training needed for handling meth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 18, 2002

Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics officers detain Tommy Hull at Washington and Belmont streets during a drug arrest Wednesday. (The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman

[07/18/02]Warren County grand jurors meeting this week may have noted the increasing number of crystal methamphetamine laboratories in the county in considering their recommendations.

In their written report delivered to Circuit Judge Frank Vollor Wednesday afternoon, the jurors who began proceedings Monday recommended that Vicksburg Police officers and Vicksburg Firefighters be trained in the process and hazards of manufacturing the substance.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Department has several officers who specialize in enforcing the state’s crystal methamphetamine laws. They were trained at Quantico, Va., and are at least partially equipped by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The number of cleanups of meth labs in the county has been growing rapidly and has exceeded by two to four times its proportional share among the state’s counties the past three years. The county’s DEA-funded cleanup total for 1999 was three, but that total jumped to seven for each of the next two years and, by the midway point of this year, had already reached 13.

In other comments following their meeting with Police Chief Tommy Moffett, they commended the chief, at work here since Oct. 3, for “positive changes made to the training of officers on basic skills” and recommended that such training continue.

The past two grand juries, which convened in January and May, commented similarly about changes at the department.

In addition to Moffett, the 18 grand jurors met with county Board of Supervisors President Richard George, Mayor Laurence Leyens, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace and County Prosecutor Johnny Price.

After touring the Warren County Jail and Sheriff”s Office and meeting with Pace, the group commented on the “excellent housekeeping” there, but recommended an evaluation of the facility for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and “further study of the feasibility of immediately utilizing the future space’ created by the ongoing addition and roof renovation.”

Use of the space could answer the question of future potential overcrowding, free more lower-floor administrative space and “eliminate the need to house misdemeanor inmates in Issaquena County,” the report said.

The group also expressed its strong support of Leyens’ efforts to revitalize the city, improve its infrastructure and departmental organization and make city police and firefighters the highest-paid in the state.

“We hope that all citizens would join in support of this effort over the long haul,'” the grand jury’s report said.

The group commended the county government’s support of youth programs and encouraged continued involvement.

“We would like to see the county and city work more cooperatively together,” the grand jury said of its meeting with George.

After meeting with Price, who spoke “as an advocate for the children, particularly those who are involved in the Youth Court System,” the group recommended that “all citizens join in an outcry to their state and local representatives so that these recommendations may be implemented.”

“We recommend that the community give their full support to Mr. Price and the Youth Court in securing adequate and qualified personnel, facilities and activities to reduce the cycle of spending endless tax dollars for the construction of new detention centers to house these lost youths,” the group’s report said.

The group also recommended “that the appropriate government entity explore the feasibility of the seizure of property owned by convicted felons.”