14 News Special Report: Mayor vs. Meth - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

14 News Special Report: Mayor vs. Meth

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Evansville's meth epidemic became a campaign issue in last year's mayoral race. Both candidates placed a high priority on protecting the community from meth makers.      

A year later, under the new Winnecke administration- are we any better off than before? 

Last year was a record year for meth labs in Evansville.

"Meth is our top policy. That's gotta be it. Let's come up with a plan," Lloyd Winnecke said during last year's campaign.

A year later, Mayor Winnecke tells 14 News the city has support from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns to make pseudoepredine a prescription only drug.

"We'll go to Indianapolis in January with a much broader base of support to make pseudoephredine the main ingredient. If we get rid of that, we get rid of meth," Mayor Winnecke said.

The prosecutor agrees it's been an uphill battle to keep the cold and allergy medicine out of the reach of meth makers.

"We're seeing a lot of people buying pseudoephedrine and then selling the boxes. We call that smurfing," Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann said. 

If lawmakers don't pass a statewide ban on over the counter sales, there's the option of home rule to make pseudoephdredrine, prescription only in the City of Evansville and Vanderburgh County.   

Until new laws are enacted, The Guardian is standing watch.

"Since it rolled out early this fall, it has gone to several neighborhoods whose neighborhood associations have called saying, 'we know there's drug dealing going on here. We want the Guardian in our neighborhood.' We know it has deterred crime," Mayor Winnecke said.

Powerful testimonials from a local family are part of the prosecutor's campaign to increase public awareness. 

"Meth stops you from being a mother. It's all about the dope," a local mother said.

"My kids didn't have their dad to support them, take care of them, be there for them," said a local father.

Putting a face on meth is part of an on going education program in all 44 Neighborhood Associations. In meth homes, children face the greatest risk.

"We want to stop these labs from being inside people's homes around children who have no choice to get out," Hermann said.

A major challenge is locating a meth lab before there's an explosion. The one-pot meth labs are harder to detect.

"The biggest problem continues to be identification. When they used the old method with ammonia, it smelled from a long way away. One pot labs don't smell as much," Hermann said.

At a recent meth town hall meeting, residents shared their concerns.  

"I've known people who have really been affected by it," resident Mike Wilson said. "We're also curious as to what will happen to cold medicine, if it's going to be prescription or how difficult that's going to be or what solutions they have to controlling this."

Police showed off what an active meth lab looks like with the main ingredient being those cold pills.

"This is the currency of methamphetamine. It really is," the speaker said.

But officials are hopeful a new form of pseudoephedrine with a different coating could make it more difficult to cook meth.

Authorities agree the meth problem won't go away anytime soon, but fewer meth labs will mean a better and safer life for many local children.

"We want to stop these kids from growing up in these homes. If we can take that away and make this a drug only imported from Mexico, that's a victory for us," Hermann said.  

The latest EPD figures show 80 meth labs have been seized as of August 31st. In all of last year, there were 112 meth labs in the city.

As we've seen, meth makers have been able to bypass existing laws limiting the purchase of pseudoephedrine in Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois and many believe a prescription only mandate is the community's best bet at winning the war on meth.  

The bottom line is the mayor is not ready to declare victory, but he's not giving up the fight.

Also look for more of those Guardian crime trucks on the streets next year.

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