Coastal Voices: Storm damage pales in comparison to meth’s toll

Written by Jon Alexander November 15, 2012 05:30 pm

Here are excerpts from a speech at the annual Meth Summit this week.

I remember being here seven years ago in October 2005. I’d been here less than a year and had the honor of speaking that day.

If I had to pick one of my favorite Del Norte days, a day when this county’s true colors shined, it was that Saturday. First, the people of this community turned out to speak out against an epidemic we continue to fight here today. Later that afternoon, I watched as Sandy Morrison realized her dream of opening Del Norte County’s first residential rehabilitation house, the Jordan Recovery Center, and later that night, the people of this community held a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina at the Veteran’s Hall.

Katrina was the deadliest hurricane known to date. Sadly, New Jersey and New York have just been battered and broken last week by the worst storm the East Coast has ever seen.  The devastation and destruction inflicted by Katrina and Sandy was monumental, brutal and deadly. And yet, the two combined pale in comparison to the monster we face here tonight. And its name is crystal methamphetamine.

I have some critics (imagine that) who think I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to the meth issue. That my office’s tough stand on crystal meth is somehow based upon my former dependency. I wish those people could see the residential burglaries, the domestic violence, the assaults, the car jackings, the elder abuse, the animal abuse, the weapons use, the contaminated infants — and that’s before we get to the ripple effects of broken homes, lost jobs, truancy, shortened mortality, teen pregnancy and the shackles of addiction and costs of recovery.  

Just so we understand, the meth epidemic isn’t unique to Del Norte County. Or Northern California.  Or the Northwest United States. It is a national epidemic of monstrous proportion, and it’s doing damage to us that Al Quaeda and the followers of Osama Bin Laden could not create  or envison in their wildest dreams.

... I sat at a closed session of all California district attorneys and Governor Brown, earlier this year in Santa Monica. As the co-chair of the DA Association’s Narcotics Enforcement Committee, I told Gov. Brown that my little county in the northwest corner of the state needed him to be our point man in Washington, D.C., on this issue. I told him he could bypass the DEA because they already knew what was going on. I told him he needed to go to the State Department and the Defense Department,  because Mexican meth super-labs were importing tons of Anthrax-like poison into our country and those labs had to be taken out because the Mexican government was either unable or unwilling to do it.

Gov. Brown looked at me, smiled, and said, “What do you want, drones?” Failing to see the humor, I replied, “Only, sir, if they have bombs under their wings.” I continued, saying, “Governor, we just got out of 10 years in Iraq. We were there over some mythical weapons of mass destruction — to this day, no one knows what they were. But I can tell you the one that gets made in those super labs, comes across the border every day, makes its way up the I-5 corridor, takes a left turn at Grant’s Pass and comes to my county and makes my people and their kids sick and my streets crime-ridden.”  

... I am not blind to the fact that without our insatiable demand for drugs, the supply wouldn’t exist. We need more money for treatment, for counseling, for rehabilitation facilities and more education at younger ages for our kids. We need more Neighborhood Watch groups like Smith River and Dundas and the Bertsch Tract — not just to assist law enforcement, but to let neighbors know their community standards of acceptable behavior. You don’t have to be Hillary Clinton to know that it takes a village not just to raise a child, but to save itself.

I spoke with BIA Special Agent Carleen Fischer earlier today about working with Smith River and the Tolowas on this and other issues. Presiding Judge Abinanti of the Yurok Tribal Court has been working with my office to divert appropriate cases into the culturally beneficial components of her Wellness Court.  She is tireless in her efforts to implement her vision of restorative justice and it is a privilege to stand beside her in this battle.

...  I look at our collective efforts and analogize it to that of a stonecutter. You hammer away at this rock, maybe a hundred times without so much as a crack showing in it.  And yet at the 101st blow, it splits in two — and we know that it wasn’t that blow that did it, but all that had gone before. I promise you, my people and I in the DA’s Office will keep hammering away if you will, and I swear to God, someday we’ll beat this thing.

Jon Alexander is the Del Norte County district attorney.