Getting tough on smurfing

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Editorial: Nov. 30, 2012

TOPIC: Smurfing in Kentucky
OUR VIEW: Officials doing best in meth battle

People who indulge in meth often also indulge in another activity: Finding creative ways around Kentucky’s restrictions on purchasing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient for manufacturing methamphetamine.

Ron Eckart, director of the Greater Hardin County Narcotics Task Force, said in 2011: “It’s not slowing down. Meth addicts and meth labs are an epidemic. It is such an addictive drug that once people use it, they feel like they have to have it.”

A little trick in the meth world called “smurfing” recently has attracted interest. Smurfing refers to a group of individuals visiting a store to acquire meth ingredients. While one purchases pseudoephedrine, others buy ingredients such as lithium batteries or starter fluid.

It can be big business. Once a meth user purchases pseudoephedrine, he or she can sell it to a manufacturer for money or finished product for about $50 or half of a gram of meth, Eckart said.

Gov. Steve Beshear recently launched a campaign aimed at educating the public about smurfing. He was joined by members of the General Assembly, representatives of the Kentucky Retail Association, Kentucky Pharmacists Association and Consumer Healthcare Products Association to launch the campaign in Lexington.

The intent of the campaign is to instill a public awareness in the illegal practice with signage at pharmacy sales counters, and to warn potential “smurfers.”

Law officials on the frontline of the epidemic know first hand how serious a problem meth is to Hardin County and the country.

Hardin County ranks among the state leaders in meth labs uncovered on an annual basis and was rated fifth in 2010. That is not a ranking we should be proud of, although the high number also is a positive reflection of a proactive approach to seek and find labs around the county.

“Meth has an enormous fiscal and criminal impact on Kentucky, and I am committed to working with leaders across the state to combat the use of this deadly drug,” Beshear said in a news release. “Smurfing is a main component of the criminal meth process.”

Law officials don’t have enough staffing available to offset the meth problem here.

For instance, four individuals will appear Monday in Hardin Circuit Court facing meth charges. Another six are scheduled for Tuesday court sessions. These numbers are the norm in this county.

Local and state officials are taking a hard line against the drug that not only impacts the user, but those around them. Often that includes children.

Meth is an ongoing battle. A battle that can't be won unless there are tough consequences to actions, public awareness and funding for manpower to bust labs and people.

Gov. Beshear's latest actions should help on the local level.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.