- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Federal drug agents arrested 427 persons in nationwide raids this week as part of the country’s first nationally coordinated law-enforcement operation aimed at fighting the spread of methamphetamine use and abuse in the United States.

The raids, known as “Operation Wildfire” and led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), also resulted in the seizure of 209 pounds of methamphetamine, 188 pounds of precursor chemicals used to make the drug, $255,570 in cash, 28 vehicles and 123 weapons.

Agents also shut down 56 clandestine laboratories and took into custody 30 children exposed to potential danger at those sites.

“There is no drug that has more consequences than meth — for the abuser, for the trafficker, for the environment, for communities and for the innocent children who live in filth and neglect,” DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said at a press conference yesterday.

More than 200 cities were targeted during the raids, including Norfolk, Va., and the Rockville area of Maryland, along with Severna Park and Walkerville.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said Operation Wildfire was successful owing in part to the varied law-enforcement and drug-diversion tactics practiced by the DEA and its law-enforcement partners, including undercover meth purchases, meth-laboratory identification and seizures, the execution of search and arrest warrants, and the identification and dismantlement of large-scale meth-trafficking organizations.

Mr. Payne also said DEA mobile enforcement teams were dispatched to assist state and local authorities in their meth investigations and that pseudoephedrine importers, wholesalers and retailers were targeted in the probe.

He said that while the past week represented the largest single enforcement effort against meth, it was not the DEA’s first. Mr. Payne said the agency dismantled three major drug-transportation organizations last month that were responsible for enough meth to supply 22,000 U.S. users.

“The scourge of methamphetamine demands strong partnerships and innovative solutions to fight the devastation it leaves behind,” Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said. “Through Operation Wildfire, we have joined with state and local law enforcement to successfully pursue meth peddlers and producers in over 200 cities.”

Mr. Payne said that because meth has become more accessible and appealing to teenagers, the DEA has started a new Web site as part of an effort to raise public awareness about the dangers of the drug. He said the site, www.justthinktwice.com, gives teens and parents the facts about methamphetamine.

“The realities of meth’s physical and emotional tolls are plainly described and accompanied by before-and-after photos of meth users, which graphically depict the ravages of meth on the user and make a strong statement about its consequences,” Mr. Payne said.

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