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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Methamphetamine arrests by the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force and the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force have risen sharply in recent years, mirroring a national trend.
The Weber strike force had 88 meth arrests in 2002, 110 in 2003 and 150 last year, said Lt. Mike Ashment, strike force commander.
Meth-related arrests account for more than 30 percent of all the strike force's arrests.
"Methamphetamine is definitely our biggest threat in this area," Ashment said. "It is definitely on the upswing. The availability and use are high."
He said the drug originally was cheaper than cocaine, which is one reason why meth use began to grow.
"It used to be referred to as a 'poor man's coke,' but that's not true any more," Ashment said. "The biggest factor (now) is that the high with methamphetamine lasts longer than cocaine."
Davis County has seen similar growth in meth-related crime, mostly because the drug is easier to obtain, said Lt. Allen Swanson of the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force.
"To date this year, we have closed 52 methamphetamine cases," Swanson said. "We have 126 active cases right now, as well."
He said that this year, the Davis strike force has seized more than 3 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of $163,000.
Meth use is up nationwide, too. According to a recent study by the National Association of Counties, 51 percent of law enforcement agencies surveyed reported meth-related arrests made up more than 20 percent of all arrests.
Swanson said the Davis strike force's focus is on drug dealers more than drug users this year, because users seem to be a "revolving door" where they come out of jail and go right back to the meth, over and over.
"We hope to eventually dismantle the (distribution) organizations," Swanson said.
Ashment said methamphetamine is often related to other crimes, including credit-card theft and identification theft.
Ashment said it also can cause violence. He said methamphetamine addicts generally stay awake for long periods of time and can have a sense of paranoia, which leads them to want to protect themselves or lash out at others.
The Weber strike force is seeing an increase in other drug abuse as well. Prescription pain medication abuse is on the rise, particularly with adolescents and young adults, Ashment said.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)