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Cortland County uses education to combat rise in meth incidents


Cortland County is experiencing a spike in the number of methamphetamine incidents, nearly doubling this year over 2013. But the Cortland County Sheriff's Office is taking action to try to control the problem.

Lt. Todd Caufield says there have been 34 incidents so far this year, everything from the discovery of meth labs to people finding discarded soda bottles used while producing the drug on the go.

He says although the numbers don't look good and the department isn't proud of them, the sheriff's office believes some of that increase is due to better reporting.

"Our biggest return for our work that we've been doing is getting the awareness out there and making the training available for the officers, and bringing them up to speed as to what to look for," Caufield said. "That has been, as you can see, the numbers don't lie and that has been beneficial to our training and education."

Caufield says the sheriff's office has also met with community groups to explain how to identify the signs of methamphetamine production.

But he admits the problem isn't going away any time soon.

"To sit here and tell you it's just a phase or a trend or whatever, I've been in this job for 28 years to be exact and when I came on the job, it was the marijuana and the cocaine and the crack, etcetera," Caufield explained. "That's still out there."

And just like with other illegal drugs, an increase in other crime has come along with this uptick in meth use.

"The robberies, the assaults, the home invasions, the larcenies, not just from stores but from family members, etcetera," Caufield said. "That was on the increase. And looking at the root of the problem, we saw we had to concentrate in the heroin and the methamphetamine type area because that seemed to be driving it right up there pretty significantly."

Caufield says the department is trying to take a proactive approach ot the issue and is working to educate the public about the signs of meth production.

"This was a learning curve for everybody," Caufield explained. "Not just for the community but also us in law enforcement. Now with the officers knowing what to look for, they're more proactive in that type of setting."

The number of methamphetamine-related incidents in Cortland County jumped from 18 last year to 34 incidents so far in 2014.