Snohomish County officials are hoping the state Legislature will help fund a team of deputies to help fight methamphetamine use in the county. Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, will...

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EVERETT — Snohomish County officials are hoping the state Legislature will help fund a team of deputies to help fight methamphetamine use in the county.

Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, will propose the state put $3 million toward a pilot program to fight methamphetamine use in Pierce and Snohomish counties. Local officials say they hope that working with Pierce County, which already has a successful strike team, will help draw attention to the need.

“I guess it’s power in numbers,” said Councilman Jeff Sax, R-Snohomish. “It helps us get the Legislature’s attention. There’s two counties with the same problem.”

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Pierce County had the first meth team in the state in 1997, said Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer. But it needs more money for treatment efforts, Lovick said.

Lovick’s bill proposes $750,000 a year in 2006 and 2007 to Pierce and Snohomish counties. Pierce County would use its money to improve treatment efforts. Snohomish County would establish a 10-person meth strike team.

If the pilot were successful, Lovick said, the state could seek federal funds and other money to expand it to other counties.

“These have been identified as the two counties with some of the biggest problems in the state,” he said.

Lovick said the state will benefit because the meth effort will keep some people out of state prisons.

Nearly 20 percent of inmates tested at the Snohomish County Jail tested positive for meth, according to a recent study by an outside consultant. In King County, 13 percent did. Use of the home-brewed stimulant leads to an increase in other types of street crime, officials said.

With meth arrests rising in Snohomish County, Sheriff Rick Bart said fighting the drug is one of his top priorities.

“If (the Legislature) can do anything to help, public-safety-wise, this is what they should do, and I think they’ll see an impact from it almost immediately,” he said.

Pierce County’s team has been so successful that neighboring counties have complained that meth houses are moving in to escape the strong enforcement, Troyer said.

Besides dedicating six deputies to focus on meth, the county has trained real-estate agents, social workers and others to spot suspicious behavior, he said. Now, the county is working on helping store employees watch for people buying meth ingredients. People buying huge amounts of cold medicine and coffee filters, for example, should be reported, Troyer said.

The idea of a meth strike team became a political football two years ago after the Snohomish County Council declared a “war on meth” and made a plan to fight it. The office of Bob Drewel, Snohomish County executive at the time, countered with its plan, and Bart’s Drug Task Force submitted yet another.

In the end, none of the teams was funded in the county budget.

Emily Heffter: 425-783-0624 or eheffter@seattletimes.com