Johnston sheriff wants tougher punishments for meth labs
Posted February 23, 2012
Smithfield, N.C. — Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said Thursday that methamphetamine labs are on the rise in his county and that harsher punishments are needed to reverse the trend.
The county has seen five meth lab busts in the past two months, he said. On Wednesday, deputies busted up the largest lab in the county's recent history.
Allen Ray Best Jr., 41, and James Cook, 22, were arrested in Wednesday's raid of Best's home at 8694 Brogden Road, a building behind the home and at an empty store about a mile away.
"It's a felony to manufacture meth, and we need to see the prosecution aggressively going forward and the courts saying we want to prosecute this," Bizzell said. "And upon conviction, we need to see judges setting sentences and fines that sting."
Bizzell said deputies are reporting that they are seeing repeat offenders. The courts, he said, need to do a better job of putting offenders in prison and keeping them there.
Stronger laws enacted three years ago helped decrease meth labs, Bizzell said, but criminals have learned how to work the system and the labs are back on the rise.
"We need some fines, and we need some sentencing that sends a message back to the street," he said.
Bizzell, the district attorney and State Bureau of Investigation plan to meet next week to see how they can work together to end what Bizzell calls an epidemic.
"We’re going to be looking at how we can work together to aggressively pursue and prosecute those that are manufacturing meth," he said. "If they don’t manufacture it, there’s none to buy. It cuts it off."
Johnston County prosecutors say they are working hard to prosecute meth lab cases but that there isn't always enough evidence to pursue the charge with the harshest penalty.
"We are very aware of these types of cases," Johnston County Assistant District Attorney Adren Harris said. "We understand how serious they are."
Bizzell said he also plans to talk with the county attorney to see if his office can place a lien on properties where meth labs are found to help pay for clean-up.
The cost can be expensive for taxpayers. Wednesday's bust, Bizzell said, is estimated to cost up to $10,000.