State creates meth manufacturer database

By Bridget Maiellaro

Due to a drastic rise in methamphetamine lab incidents in the past few years, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law declaring a database, known as the Methamphetamine Manufacturer Registry, in June 2006. This past June, the Illinois State Police launched a Web site designed to give communities throughout the state the opportunity to view the names of people convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine.

“The registry is a useful tool created so families are able to access information online and take whatever means necessary when they find out they have a dangerous individual in their county,” Gerardo Cardenas, a spokesman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said. “The information provides an added sense of protection in the sense that it shows that authorities are vigilant.”

The Methamphetamine Manufacturer Web site identifies people who have been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine, commonly referred to as meth, which is a highly addictive drug with potent central nervous system stimulant properties, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The registry includes the convicted person’s name, date of birth, offense or offenses that require the person to be on the database, the conviction date and the county of the offense. It does not include the offender’s hometown, address, ZIP code, or a photo or physical description.

“We included what we were mandated to do,” said Lt. Scott Compton, chief public information officer for the Illinois State Police. “We weren’t required to include those items.”

The registry only includes those convicted of manufacturing meth after the law, Senate Bill 2915, took effect June 5, 2006. As of Dec. 8, 2007, there were 108 people in 37 counties throughout the state convicted of meth manufacturing, according to the registry’s Web site. Of those offenders, there is only one person convicted in Champaign County listed on the state’s meth registry. Chad Beasley, deputy of the street crimes unit for the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, said that the police force is active in seeking out meth manufacturers and users.

“Typically in Champaign-Urbana, we will run into cocaine, cannabis and/or heroin. We don’t stumble across meth as often,” said Lt. Bryant Seraphin of the Criminal Investigation Division for the Urbana Police Department. “For meth, generally speaking, majority of time in the area, we just see the leftover pieces and equipment that were once used.”

Beasley said that majority of the meth labs the county has dealt with stem from random car stops, usually for violating a traffic law or for exhibiting suspicious behavior. Beasley said his unit also works to prevent groups of people from stealing anhydrous ammonia, or farm fertilizer, one of the key ingredients in meth, from various farm plants throughout the county.

However, not all responses to the registry have been positive.

“These registries would make it impossible for nonviolent methamphetamine offenders to get their lives back together again, destroying their ability to get a job and become productive members of society,” Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that promotes reform on harsh drug laws, said in a press release. “Policy makers are wasting taxpayer dollars and undermining public safety by keeping methamphetamine offenders unemployed.”

Those in support of the meth registries argue that their purpose is to inform the public.

“It’s all about public education,” said Special Agent Mark Warpness of the Chicago Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “(The registry) does work in the sense of educating the public. In terms of deterrence, people don’t want to be in the log, so they tend to be deterred and may look for different ways to go about their activities.”

Piper agrees that public education is important, but he feels states are going about the issue the wrong way.

“We need to invest scarce public resources into educating the public about the use of meth and providing high quality treatment options to fight addiction, not to create intrusive public registry,” Piper said, in the release.

Methamphetamine use has various short term and long term effects:

Short-term effects include:

Paranoia

Loss of appetite

Increased heart rate

Convulsions

Violent behavior

Insomnia

Long-term effects include:

Fatal kidney and lung disorders

Brian damage

Permanent psychological problems

Malnutrition

Liver damage

Stroke

Death

Source: The Illinois Methamphetamine Manufacturer Registry Web site