Survey: Utah Meth Arrests Doubled Last Year

Survey: Utah Meth Arrests Doubled Last Year

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah was just one of two states where methamphetamine-related arrests doubled last year, according to a new report.

Arkansas was the other state the National Association of Counties survey of 500 law enforcement agencies identified as having meth-related arrests go up 100 percent over the past 12 months.

Sgt. Ryan Atack, head of the Salt Lake City police narcotics squad, said meth use hit epidemic proportions in Utah seven years ago.

"I don't know that it's gotten any worse," he said. "It's still our No. 1 problem."

Nearly 46 percent of women arrested in Salt Lake City test positive for meth, according to the National Institute of Justice monitoring data. The city ranks third highest in the country behind Honolulu and San Diego.

Among men arrested in Salt Lake City, 26 percent tested positive for the drug in 2003, the last year for which statistics are available.

Despite the nation's meth problem, the national drug-control policy focuses on marijuana, which is viewed by some as a gateway drug.

"On the national level, the federal government still considers marijuana as the No. 1 drug problem in America, but county law enforcement officials have a different perspective on this ranking," according to the National Association of Counties report.

The survey found that 58 percent of the police agencies said meth was their largest drug problem, and 87 percent reported increases in meth-related arrests the past three years.

Atack said his team seizes more marijuana each year, but that the drug does not cause near as many problems as meth.

"We don't see families torn apart. We don't see the violence. We don't see the robberies and the burglaries," he said. "Meth is definitely worse on society than (marijuana)."

The association also questioned 303 county child welfare agencies in 13 states. About 40 percent of those agencies said meth abuse accounts for most children in foster care or other out-of-home placements. Almost 60 percent said the drug makes family reunification more difficult.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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