Drug crimes up 28 percent in Kitsap

"The results are in, and they're not pretty. Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge on May 4 announced that, compared with the same time last year, the number of drug-related cases referred to his office from January through March 2001 had skyrocketed by 28 percent.Hauge attributes the startling rise in drug cases to a growing wave of methamphetamine use and distribution throughout Kitsap.These latest statistics compiled by Hauge's office echo the results of a three-year study the lead prosecutor released last December. Among other things, the study indicated that the number of drug cases prosecutors grapple with on a day-to-day basis is growing. A lot.Hauge said if the trend continues unabated, or if further review of the cases handled by prosecutors supports it, then he could move to create a special drug unit within the Prosecutor's Office, much like the special assault unit already established there.In a perfect world, I would ask for an additional deputy prosecutor right now, said Hauge. But I am not certain we can do that because there are so many needs in the county.County officials traditionally kick-start annual budget proposals every summer, but Hauge doesn't expect to ask for another prosecutor at that time. He said the Prosecutor's Office, along with all the various law and justice departments in the county, try to operate on a global scale when proposing budget items.If Hauge had his druthers, though, he'd ask for that additional prosecutor to work alongside the two already managing drug referral cases for the Prosecutor's Office. In turn, those three would form a separate drug unit within the Prosecutor's Office, much like the special assault unit.From January through March 2000, 412 drug-related cases were referred to the Prosecutor's Office, while during the same time in 2001, nearly 530 drug-related cases were referred to prosecutors.Partly in response to the growing number of meth cases, Kitsap representatives during this last 57th Legislative session sponsored measures that could help snuff out the meth problem. Even so, the number of drug crimes in Kitsap exploded. Predictably, Hauge supports the legislation saying it could go a long way to help the spread of meth, which officials say is quite easy to manufacture.Rep. Brock Jackley, D-Manchester, prime-sponsored a bill that restricts the sale of precursor, over-the-counter drugs, such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in drug stores, that can actually be used to cook meth. It also requires pharmacists to keep records of such sales. Hauge says such a state law is more effective than passing a similar law on the local level. That's because, without the state standard, meth users could travel to Pierce or Mason counties to purchase those precursor drugs, and avoid any laws passed in Kitsap County.Hauge said such legislation would be a positive development, but more is required to cure the meth epidemic across the state.To that end, Hauge helped form the Kitsap Drug Interdiction Task Force, composed of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, educators, lawyers and other community members.The idea is for the task force to embark on a cooperative approach toward rooting out meth in Kitsap, and its members have been meeting since January to craft such an ambitious plan.Ambitious since officials say meth is a particularly insidious drug. It's more addictive than other illegal substances, it's easy to make, cheap to buy and easy to obtain. Moreover, when meth use increases, so do the rates of other crimes, such as theft or assault.The recent study issued by Hauge compares the number of first-quarter cases in 2000 to the number of first-quarter cases this year. It also includes cases from Poulsbo, Bremerton and Port Orchard municipal courts, but not Bainbridge Island. "

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