May 19, 2014
- John Bechtel
- Dave Bieter
- Gheen Christopherson
- Tammy deWeerd
- John Evans
- Bob Flowers
- Bob Henry
- Brad Holton
- Garret Nancolas
- Darin Taylor
- Steve Rule
- Rick Yzaguirre
Staff and Guests
- Chris Atwood – SAUSA Employee
- Jeff Eidemiller – Homedale Chief of Police
- Bill Larsen – Treasure Valley Partnership
- Bill Lutz – U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
- Amber Pence – City of Boise
Gheen opened the meeting and welcomed everyone to Homedale. He said it is nice to host a TVP meeting as he hasn’t attended one yet. He plans to get more involved with the TVP in the future. He sees from the information he receives, there are good things happening. In regard to the SAUSA, he hopes that Eastern Idaho comes on and it turns into a big success.
Chris Atwood thanked everyone for the opportunity to present this project update. This July it will be two years since he has been the SAUSA. He again thanked the Partnership for its continued support for the Program. It is great to be a part of it and he actually see the benefit it is having on our communities.
We continue to focus on prosecuting gang members by targeting the worst of the worst by prosecuting those individuals in Federal Court rather than State Court. One of the two big benefits is that we don’t prosecute these people in State Court and send them out south of town where they continue to have contacts with their gangs. These incarceration costs are then covered on the federal dime instead of by the State. The other big benefit is that these people are spread out across the country and don’t have any affiliation with their gang.
Some of the things they have got going now… They recently charged 11 different people in a single case that was a large drug conspiracy. These people were moving large quantities of Methamphetamine across the Treasure Valley. All 11 of these people have pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
He works closely with local City and County prosecutors to identify cases that are appropriate for federal prosecution thus freeing up those local resources.
We continue to average over 30 plus prosecutions per year. So far, we have prosecuted 17 people this year.
Garret said that Chris mentioned the good things that come out of the Treasure Valley Partnership. There have been many good things, but this is the flagship and shows dramatically what can come by working together. He gave a brief history about how the SAUSA program was presented during a meeting with the Governor’s Office and how the idea took off under the Partnership.
Dave said we knew right away they were on to something. Even before SAUSA program began, about 4 or 5 elected officials took credit for the program that had nothing to do with it. Dave said this is the shining star of our efforts but, we have done a lot of good work together. We have addressed flood control issues, air/water quality issues, passed pseudoephedrine ordinances, etc.
John asked, as we go along down the road with the SAUSA Program, are there any other areas we can look at. The legislature funded some money for Internet Crimes Against Children. A number of us have law enforcement officers that are on that task force. Is there any federal nexus to those kinds of crimes?
Chris said there are and this certainly would be a possibility for the Partnership’s SAUSA. He didn’t want to speak for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but there are other types of cases that could become a focus. There are certainly, still gang members and we are not going to be able to totally eliminate this problem.
He said that Bill could speak to this more, but in the effort in Eastern Idaho, these other types of crimes like Internet Crimes Against Children are included in the scope of the SAUSA. They want it to be a custom fit for their needs.
Bill Luts said where a SAUSA would be extremely helpful on Internet Crimes Against Children is if there is someone that trips across state lines to continue the act. Chris stated there are people in the U.S. Attorney’s Office that are doing those types of cases.
Darin asked what the backlog of potential cases is. How many are we not doing that we could be? Chris said he wouldn’t describe it as a backlog. Prosecutors and law enforcement in general are doing a little triage. You have to prioritize your cases and get the most serious ones first. That is what they do. They get the violent offenders and the ones where they are getting the best sentences. It is not a backlog. He stays busy with the Metro Task Force.
Darin asked what trends they are seeing. Chris said there is probably a good even split between gun and drug cases. He knows that there active investigations in to several gangs in the valley as well as an outlaw motorcycle gang. As far as firearms, they are seeing more sawed-off shotguns connected with drug trafficking.
John B. said when the SAUSA Program started there was all the drive-by shootings in Nampa and Caldwell and there was a lot of gang activity. He wouldn’t say they had any big-time gangs in Wilder, but they had a lot of want-to-be’s. When we started getting rid of the gang infrastructure, it virtually eliminated all the influence of the gangs on his community. It has made there situation in Wilder and all the other smaller towns so much better.
Gheen stated when he started as Mayor; he had a concern that the SAUSA might not be having an impact on their town. After seeing the impact on the larger communities, the impact has been amazing as there were parts of Caldwell he would not go into. John E. added that they move around so much that these people are in all of our towns.
Chris stated that this highlights one of the strengths of the SAUSA Project in that they don’t have jurisdictional problems that might occur at the county level.
Bill said that it was his understanding that under the SAUSA Program, the State had its first RICOH prosecution. Chris said this was correct. The first time they used RICOH on gang members in the district of Idaho was in the 2011-12 BMC case. There were about 28-30 gang members charged on federal racketeering charges. It was the “Brown Magic Clica organization that was operating in SW Idaho and into Oregon. It was a complex investigation and they took out the leadership of the gang. Those folks are serving lengthy, lengthy sentences.
Garret added that at the same time we were developing the SAUSA, we also worked with the State Legislature to define what a gang member was, and that helped. Once we got the definition of a gang member established, they were able to get enhanced penalties at the State level for using guns and drugs that were related to gang activity. Additionally they were able to make it a crime to recruit a gang member. Caldwell’s crime index in the year 2,000 was over 14,000 and this last year it was approximately 6,710.
Chris introduced Bill Lutz, the Resident Agent in Charge for the DEA.
Drug Activity in the Treasure Valley Bill stated moved here five years ago and this is a fantastic place to live and raise a family and get away from the crime of the east coast. The DEA has a taskforce. They have ten smart agents with the DEA and he has 13 taskforce officers from all the local jurisdictions. They (the DEA) could not do what they do, without the local officers. They have two groups. One does enforcement stuff and the other is a Prescription Pill Taskforce.
He sees four problems, on the ground, in our area and also throughout the State. They continue to see an insatiable appetite for Methamphetamine. The purity is through the roof (98-99% pure). Prices are stable to falling, demand is stable to falling and supply is stable to rising. They are inundated with it.
Most of the sources of supply of Meth come from California via Mexico. The Tri-Cities and Yakima are becoming areas of concern for them. Recently they had a 200 lb. Meth bust that originated from there. It included 20 lb.’s of heroin and also cocaine.
The target audience for Meth is unfortunately is in Canyon County, but Jerome and Burley have moved up on their map significantly. Mayor Bieter was talking about the Pseudoephedrine law, in his 24 years of law enforcement this was the single greatest piece of legislation that has ever been passed. They went from hundreds of Meth Labs a year to last year, they had six.
At one point in time he would have said that Marijuana was their second biggest concern. But he thinks that prescription drugs are going to rival Meth rather shortly. To give an example, they just did a case where the Boise Police Dept. partnered them to do a wiretap on a group. They were all 17 – 24 year olds. When the smoke cleared, the main target admitted to distributing 160,000 pills over a two month period. When you do the math, they were selling the pills for upwards to $45 apiece and were taking in $7 million.
They have and will continue to see a prescription pill increase in the Treasure Valley and throughout the State. They formed a new taskforce that most of the local jurisdictions are a part of. It is designed to specifically to go after that entire chain of people that are involved with pharmaceuticals. They are going after the dealers in the street and are going all the way up to doctors and pharmacists.
Marijuana continues to be a problem here as the States around us have taken the steps they have taken. He thinks they are going to be seeing more problems. Its not the THC they were seeing 20 years ago. As people’s appetites and tolerance for higher THC increases, they resort to hash oil or what they call waxing.
One of the problems you have when the prescription pill abuse rate goes up high, which it is starting to here, there is a tendency to turn to heroin. The national database that tracks this will move Idaho into the top ten this year. When these users run out of the supply for whatever reason, they tend to turn to heroin. If what other states have experienced around the country holds true, we are going to have a heroin problem here.
Years ago, heroin always had a stigma as a dirty drug. The impression was you had to ingest it or spike it to get it into their system. Now with this black tar, you can smoke it and this has taken that stigma away.
The pills really scare them. The source of supply is located in the U.S. whereas with Meth, most of it comes across the border. There is a legitimate need and source for them so this problem is germane to all sorts of segments of society. For example, there are a lot of folks in law enforcement that have had a problem.
He feels like his job security is there. He doesn’t see the problems he saw on the East Coast. Although just in the last couple months they have had some pharmacy robberies which are indicative of the prescription pill problem.
Jeff said prescription drugs are above everything else on this end of the world. They are the easiest to get. They have discussed in the Chief’s Association that a big problem is the sensationalism of all this. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing ads for pills.
Dave asked if it makes sense to take some of these measures that are being taken in other States, now, before it becomes a bigger problem. Bill L. said they just instituted a great Prescription Monitoring Program. Mark Johnson with the State Board of Pharmacy has been working on it. Part of the deal was the State went along with making you register, but not with making you use it. That was a balanced approach between privacy and over reach, to not having the program.
Jeff asked if this was something that either the TVP or other organization can approach the legislature and make it a requirement that the Prescription Monitoring Program be utilized.
Tammy said they have a drug take back program at the City of Meridian. Residents can drop off pharmaceuticals at retirement homes 8-5 Monday-Friday. The Police Dept. picks it up. There are no questions asked and residents merely go in and drop them into a receptacle. Bill L. said they will go by the City of Meridian tomorrow to pick that up. He added his office collects these from around the State and take them to the incinerator.
Bill L. said there are more drop-boxes in the Treasure Valley than there has ever been. For those that are inclined to use them, it really is quite simple. Jeff asked if these drop-boxes are funded by the EPA. Bill L. said the EPA does not fund these. There is a family out there whose child died of a prescription overdose. The family’s legacy is to pay for these boxes. They just have to be in a monitored area for law enforcement. The Office for Drug Policy has an application for this program. He said he would relay that information to Jeff.
Garret said there is an added benefit to the drop-box. You do not want people flushing these pharmaceuticals down the toilet. These cause problems with your NPDES Permit. Bill L. added that a good percentage of pharmaceuticals showing up in the treatment plants are coming from people. Users’ opiate levels are so high the body can absorb so much thus they are voiding it out.
Brad said he has witnessed a couple of times when a hospice person is there at the time of death; the hospice person collects all the medication and flushes it. He asked if there is a way we could get an intervention with this organization that is there a lot of the time. Bill L. said the FDA actually recommends on its website certain medications to be flushed.
Rick said it was his perception that there was a tendency by doctors to over prescribe medications. Is there any effort to restrict the volume of the script? Bill L. agreed with this perception. It is not a simple problem to solve.
John E. said that in Idaho, the ratio of doctors to the population is one of the lowest in the nation. The logistics of limiting a prescription would create more doctors’ visits and more costs. He was on the Board for Family Medical Residency of Idaho for several years. He got his eyes opened to the administrative side of medical facilities and how much is required.
Jeff asked if they had seen much of the distilling of marijuana down for oil for vapor cigarettes. Bill L. said they had an elaborate cannabinoid case where the person was buying his chemicals in China. He was moving towards e-cigarettes as his delivery mechanism. This is a scary thing. It is coming and it will be tough to detect.
Tammy said that this group had a big success with the pseudoephedrine ordinances of a couple years ago. She asked what the Partnership can do. Are there things that should be done at the State level that they are not willing to do that we can help to bring along? Bill suggested that everyone keep their eye on the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) that just started with the State. The PMP mandates registration but does not mandate use.
Dave B. said that he will put on the next meeting around the PMP and do some legwork around this issue. He doesn’t want to wait till further down the road when there is something we can do now. Maybe we do something by ordinance first. He added that we have had such a good run. We are down 35% in serious crime over the last six-eight years. This one worries him most because the gateway between prescription drugs and heroin is there. Jeff added …. From $45 a pill to a $10 bag.
Bill said that Tammy, Brad and he went to Pocatello on April 22nd for the Eastern Idaho SAUSA meeting. At last count there were 22 people in the room representing 11 jurisdictions. They unanimously voted to move forward on the SAUSA Program in Eastern Idaho. They are reconvening on the 29th to discuss how they put the local coalition together. He felt that there were lots of people in the room with questions about whether the use of a SAUSA made sense. After U.S. Attorney, Wendy Olson and Rafael Gonzales got done with their presentations, there were really no more questions if the program would be needed.
During the meeting, he was given the task of getting legislators to the next meeting. So far, he has a commitment from two JFAC members to attend the meeting on the 29th.
In addition, the Mayor of Burley, Merlin Smedley invited him to go speak to the Mini-Cassia jurisdictions about the SAUSA Program. He was surprised at the attendance. There were representatives from at least seven jurisdictions that were not a part of the original Eastern Idaho meeting. They indicated they would be joining the effort.
Brad said they went around the table to get impression from those there, on whether they should go forward with the Program. It was interesting that at least four people used the words that this SAUSA Program is absolutely a no-brainer.
Bill pointed to the information packet. Included in the packet are the member dues for this next fiscal year. They will not change from last year.
Tammy said that the Officers did get together and discussed the budget for next year and this will be forthcoming.
John E. moved to approve the minutes and financial statement. Garret seconded.