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Meth ravages its users
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Methamphetamine figures into this area's crime situation in big ways.

Methamphetamine has many names, but the most common is "crank." It is a super stimulant, with extremely high addictive qualities. Some say that just one "hit" of crank will put a person on the road to addiction. Crank is known for destroying the users' lives and health. "Cranksters" or "tweekers,"as methamphetamine addicts are often called, can be extremely thin, and many have few, if any teeth - owing to the fact that crank causes the body to enter a high acid state, which leads to rapid tooth decay. Those who have really abused themselves may have hollow eyes, their hair may be in poor condition, skin infections are common and their overall hygiene is generally poor.

Crank has been known as the "poor man's drug," because it was, in the past, easy to manufacture and the ingredients are relatively inexpensive. But that is now starting to change. Crank is now selling for $75 to $90 per gram, while cocaine has become less expensive in our region and is therefore now more plentiful. Crank's higher value results from greater controls on the drug's ingredients and increased enforcement successes. Crank is most commonly "consumed" by smoking it, but it can be taken in by mouth, snorted through the nostrils or by intravenous injection. Cocaine, while it has dropped significantly in price, may offer some competition to crank, but will not likely replace it since its "high" is not as powerful.

One gram of crank will net users anywhere from 10 to 90 "hits," depending on the degree of addiction. Three hits a day seems to be what an average user consumes. And in case you are wondering, a gram of crank looks like the contents of a sugar substitute packet - the kind you would find in a restaurant. Considering that the drug still appears to be relatively inexpensive per hit, we have to wonder why there is such a strong correlation between drug addiction, property thefts and other crimes.

If the average drug addict spends only $75 a month on methamphetamine, one has to wonder why drug addicts are thought to be such thieves. The answer lies in the fact that drug addicts are reduced to an existence in which their only objective in life each day is to get high again. Shelter, clothes, comfort and even food becomes secondary. Therefore, they cannot hold a job, so their entire existence is pinned on what they can beg, scavenge or steal each day. It appears to be a miserable existence.

Many tweekers cannot sleep while under the influence, so they tend to be up all night. Night time provides concealment for committing thefts, so they are often out roaming neighborhoods looking for anything to steal. These thefts include bicycles, items from open garages and unlocked cars, and just about anything else that can be carried away on foot or on a bicycle. While tweekers rely on aluminum cans and other recyclables for an income, they also use the collection of cans as an excuse to eyeball neighborhoods for theft opportunities.

Discarded financial papers and documents are valuable to tweekers who can sell these items to persons engaged in identity theft. Garbage can rummaging seems not to draw too much attention since it has become an every night occurrence in our communities. It therefore gives these tweekers (and others) an excuse to be in the neighborhood and to also look for personal data items under the guise of looking for recyclables. Failure to shred your personal papers before discarding them in a garbage can may be the start for serious problems later.

As the economy worsens, drug addict's lives become more difficult. Hand-outs are less common, social services are subject to elimination or cut backs, and the prices of the illegal drugs may also increase. In short, a bad economy and drug addiction is less than a good combination.

To protect yourself from the emerging trend of more thefts of your property and identification, it is wise to engage your neighbors to help watch out for each other. Lock your vehicles at all times, remove valuables like CDs, wallets, purses, stereo faceplates etc., lock bicycles in the garage, use a locking gas cap for your car (note the high fuel prices) leave nothing of value on the porch or in the front yard and be sure to keep the garage door closed and locked. In short, do not leave anything out that you want to keep. Shred any disposed items that have your personal or financial information on them. It is imperative to report suspicious vehicles or persons promptly so that the police can identify or arrest them as circumstances might dictate.

Whether crank, cocaine or any other illegal drug, a significant percentage of the population has a serious drug abuse problem. There are no indications that the trend for increased numbers of drug abusers will abate anytime soon. It is one thing to protect your possessions from theft, but the real solution lies with eliminating the complex causes of drug addition. We need to do better as a government and society.