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Meth affects all of us

The drug imposes a heavy toll on law enforcement and public safety

The caller was peeved. Not furious, but not happy, either. Why, she demanded, had the Mail Tribune featured on Sunday's front page a story about the effects of methamphetamine abuse on our communities? It was an unpleasant topic, she said, that really didn't apply to most of our readers. Maybe it would have been better placed somewhere farther back in the paper, she said.

Well, while it might not be the most pleasant of topics to read about on a sunny Sunday morning, it unfortunately does apply to most of our readers. That's not because they're addicts, but because they live in an area that is paying a heavy price for the effects of meth.

With all due respect to the caller, this is a message that needs to be shouted out rather than pushed out of sight.

Community leaders in areas ranging from public health to police are trying to do just that. The effort includes a conference that starts this morning in Medford and is expected to focus on the current crisis and the growing threat meth poses for all of us.

The statistics are depressing: Sixty percent of the drug arrests made by JACNET, an interagency drug enforcement team, are for meth. More than 22,000 grams of meth were seized by JACNET in 2003 in Jackson County, demolishing the previous record of 15,741 grams seized in 2001. More than 1,700 meth-related arrests were made in 2003, which works out to about five per day.

If each of those arrests resulted in a month's jail sentence, prisoners convicted of meth charges would fill two-thirds of the county jail on a permanent basis. Unfortunately for our community, the real truth is that most of those arrested for meth serve little time. Sunday's police log in the Mail Tribune reported two cases in which people arrested on meth charges were back on the streets in one hour ' no room at the inn.

— Meth is highly addictive and, because of its effects on users, makes the prospects for getting or keeping a job increasingly remote. With no regular income, meth addicts too often turn to crime ' drug sales, thefts, robberies, etc. ' to feed their habits.

That cycle creates more victims and more expense for the community. Add to that the abuse and neglect that befalls the addicts' families and you begin to get a sense of the true toll on all of us.

Police officials call it the number one problem in Oregon. That's because they see its presence in almost every crime category, including financial fraud, child abuse, assaults and even murder.

Meth is an ugly addiction that destroys the health of its users, fills our jails, demands inordinate amounts of attention from police officers and requires extensive ' and often unsuccessful ' rehabilitation. Who pays for that? All of us.

Here's to the day that it's no longer necessary to put news about meth on the front page. Until that day, though, we must pay attention to a danger that hits much closer to home than most of us realize.

Thanks, Jack

Jack Batzer probably had no inkling that he would become the owner of a major construction company with operations in four states when he came to Medford after World War II.

But that's exactly what happened. Batzer, 88, was honored by his peers during the Home Builders of Jackson County's annual dinner meeting at the Rogue Valley Manor Tuesday night, for a lifetime of service and for his work ethic and honesty. Along the way he has received a number of other accolades, among them awards from the Associated General Contractors of Oregon and the Contractor of the Year award from the Oregon Building Congress.

Batzer's fellow contractors called him unique. That he is. Few men could have progressed as far as he has in the nearly 50 years his firm has been in operation. Thanks, Jack, for the wealth you helped bring to the valley.