BENTON - Paul Boyd, assistant prosecutor for Scott and Mississippi counties, said there are clear indications the methamphetamine problem in Southeast Missouri continues: "The number of lab seizures that are still taking place and the number of defendants coming through court on meth possession charges."
Methamphetamine lab seizures by the SEMO Drug Task Force for 2001 have already exceeded totals for the past two previous years with 141 seized this year as compared with 78 in 2000 and 126 labs in 1999.
A total of 565 drug cases were recorded by the task force in 2001 so far with 393 listed for 2000 and 434 for 1999.
Before becoming assistant prosecutor, Boyd served as special state prosecutor for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. "I was sworn in to prosecute on behalf of ten counties in Southeast Missouri from December 1997 to July 2001," said Boyd. "My main focus was prosecution of methamphetamine cases on behalf of those counties. However, I did assist in the prosecution of other criminal charges on behalf of some of those same counties."
From December 1997 to December 2000, Boyd prosecuted and closed out 337 cases with 1,345 years of time being handed down to defendants. "Of those 337 cases, 99 percent of them involved or were related to the prosecution of methamphetamine charges," said Boyd. "Out of those 337 cases, I had 217 felony cases where the defendant received a sentence from the court. The average sentence was 6.2 years."
Boyd said the United States Attorneys office in Cape Girardeau reported 24 defendants in 1997, 39 in 1998 and 20 in 1999.
"A minimum of 95 percent of all criminals are prosecuted at the state level," said Boyd. "It may be more."
One frequently asked question regarding drug investigations is why it takes so long for drug sale charges to get to court.
"Officers and confidential informants are working undercover. If we made a bust right after the buy was made, the usefulness of the officers or confidential informants would be compromised," Boyd explained. "Therefore, the officers generally work the investigation for a certain amount of time until they have saturated their usefulness. After that, the paperwork will be compiled and presented to the prosecutors office for filing of charges on the people who made the sales. The time between the sale and the filing of the charges can exceed a year, depending on the circumstances."
Boyd said immediate arrests would also expose the undercover officer or confidential informant to greater danger whereas waiting makes the seller less sure of who the informant was. "If you wait a few days, they've already made 10 more sales," said Boyd.
Asked about property seizures, Boyd said area law enforcement agencies "mostly seize cash, from my experience. We generally do not want the houses they have manufactured in because they are basically a toxic waste site," said Boyd.