The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Methamphetamine Initiative
Audit Report 06-16
Office of the Inspector General
Methamphetamine (meth) is a powerfully addictive stimulant whose use and production are increasing in the United States. The meth problem became prevalent in the early 1990s in the Southwest and Western states and since then has spread across most of the country. The Attorney General has stated that meth is our country’s most dangerous drug problem. In its 2005 report, the National Association of Counties (NACo) presented the results of its survey of law enforcement agencies and county child welfare officials across the country to identify the effects of meth on their counties and their citizens.7 According to NACo, 58 percent of the 500 survey respondents reported that meth is their largest drug problem and 50 percent of the respondents said that 1 in 5 inmates has committed meth‑related crimes. Further, NACo reported that 40 percent of child welfare officials reported an increase in out‑of‑home placements resulting from meth use.
Meth is currently the most prevalent manufactured illegal drug produced in the United States and the drug is made easily in clandestine laboratories with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients. It can be snorted, smoked, or injected. Meth is a derivative of amphetamine, which is contained in many cold medications and inhalers. The ingredients used to produce meth include fertilizer (anhydrous ammonia), gun cleaner, cold remedy pills, lithium (from batteries), acetone, alcohol, phosphorous (from matches and road flares), sulfuric acid, and brake cleaner. Producers combine these ingredients during a process called “cooking,” which creates toxic fumes and waste as by-products. Some of the chemicals used in the “cooking” process are volatile and frequently explode. The explosions have resulted in fires, chemical burns, serious physical injuries, and death. Every pound of meth produces five pounds of toxic waste, and cookers frequently dump the toxic waste on the ground or in the water supply, which pollutes the environment.
There are two broad categories of lab sites. One is the individual type of operation, where producers create meth for their own consumption. The second type is the large-scale production site (super‑lab) where workers produce meth for wider dissemination and sale. The cost of cleaning up meth lab sites typically ranges from $2,000 to $5,000 for individual sites and up to $150,000 for a super‑lab site.
Typical meth users are in their 20s and 30s and come from all social and economic backgrounds. Meth causes hyperactivity, suppresses the appetite, and creates a sense of well-being. After the initial “rush” a state of high activity and aggressiveness can turn into violent behavior. Users typically feel the effects of meth for 6 to 8 hours. Long-term meth use can lead to stroke, hallucinations, and other forms of psychotic behavior. It also can result in convulsions, paranoia, heart attack, and death.
Meth often affects parents to the point that they severely neglect their children and fail to provide basic necessities, including proper nutrition and medical care. Meth users are more prone to physically and sexually abuse their children. In addition, children living in or near meth labs can suffer severe injuries from fires and explosions in the lab and risk acute health problems from exposure to the chemicals used in meth production.
In fiscal year (FY) 1997 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began tracking statistics about the number of meth labs seized by law enforcement agencies. The DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) was established in 1974 and maintains the statistics in its National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure database. EPIC relies on state and local law enforcement agencies voluntarily reporting their statistics for inclusion in the database. However, only three states – California, Missouri, and Oklahoma – have mandatory reporting requirements. According to the data provided to us by EPIC, the number of clandestine laboratory seizures reported nationwide has increased from 3,441 in FY 1998 to 17,956 in FY 2004, an increase of 422 percent.
In FY 2002, EPIC started to track the number of children affected by their proximity to meth labs. The 50 states and the District of Columbia reported that meth affects, on average, 3,500 children per year (between FYs 2002 and 2004).
Using the data from laboratory seizures that police agencies report to EPIC, we created the following chart, which highlights the states with the largest reported meth problem. For example, California reported over 13,000 laboratory seizures from FYs 1998 through 2004. Further analysis of California’s lab seizure statistics reveals that the number of seizures per year decreased from 1,921 in FY 1998 to 912 in FY 2004. This decrease is in contrast to Missouri where the number of reported seizures has increased over the years from 322 in FY 1998 to 2,784 in FY 2004. Missouri now has the second largest number of reported seizures during the 7‑year period at almost 12,000. The chart also shows that the New England states have reported few, if any, seizures for the same period.
In FY 1998, under the authorization of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Congress established the Meth Initiative to combat meth production, distribution, and use, as well as pay for the proper removal and disposal of hazardous materials at clandestine meth laboratories.8 Every year since FY 1998, Congress has funded the Meth Initiative under a variety of names, such as the Meth Program or the “Meth/Drug Hot Spots” Program. The amount of program funding, by fiscal year, appears in the following table.
METH INITIATIVE FUNDING
Within the Department of Justice (DOJ), three distinct components are involved in administering the Meth Initiative. Congress appropriates the totality of the funds to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office). However, within the total of appropriated funds, Congress has also designated funds that are to be passed through the COPS Office to the DEA for activities associated with meth. In addition, the COPS Office has entered into reimbursement agreements with the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to fund selected meth-related OJP activities.9 The following table is a breakdown of the funding administered by each component for each fiscal year. As shown in the table, the COPS Office administered $214.1 million directly, and distributed about $46.6 million to OJP and almost $125 million to the DEA.
METH FUNDING APPROPRIATED BY CONGRESS
A brief summary of the Meth Initiative responsibilities and activities of each component follows.
The mission of the COPS Office is to advance community policing in jurisdictions of all sizes across the country. When Congress created the Meth Initiative, it assigned the COPS Office the responsibility for administering the program and disseminating the funding. Between FYs 1998 and 2005, the COPS Office was appropriated $385.6 million, of which $171.5 million was passed through to the DEA and OJP and $214.1 million was retained for awards to state and local entities.
Much of the appropriated funding administered by the COPS Office is allocated based on detailed congressional guidance about how the monies are to be spent. In particular, “earmarks” are congressionally designated, performer-specific projects that do not appear in the agency’s budget request.
Of the $214.1 million in Meth Initiative grants awarded by the COPS Office, over $179 million was awarded in response to congressional earmarks. In addition to earmarked funding, the COPS Office administers discretionary funds, wherein the COPS Office has the discretion both to designate the recipient and the amount of the award. The total Meth Initiative discretionary funding for FYs 1998 through 2005 amounts to almost $35.1 million.11 Since the inception of the program in FY 1998, the COPS Office has created programs to assist communities in their efforts to combat meth by helping children endangered by the drug, targeting assistance to small and rural communities, and initiating a pilot program for the safe and convenient removal of hazardous waste.
According to the DEA, its mission is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States; bring those organizations and individuals involved in the growth, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances to justice; and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances. Between FYs 1998 and 2005, Congress designated almost $125 million to the DEA to fund activities related to the Meth Initiative. This funding, although specifically designated for the DEA, was passed through the COPS Office and provided to the DEA under a Memorandum of Understanding. Of the $125 million, the DEA used $109.3 million in reimbursement for lab cleanups performed by independent private contractors. The DEA also used $15.6 million for training and other expenses to address the meth problem.
METH INITIATIVE FUNDING PROVIDED TO THE DEA
According to OJP, its mission is to provide federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, improve criminal and juvenile justice systems, increase knowledge about crime and related issues, and assist crime victims. This is done through a variety of grant programs. OJP and the COPS Office entered into reimbursement agreements (RA) totaling $46.6 million for FYs 2000 through 2005 to transfer responsibility for administering all aspects of several meth-related grants from the COPS Office to OJP. COPS officials told us that the grantees selected for inclusion under the RAs were grantees that OJP was already overseeing because the entities had other DOJ grants. The COPS Office took this action to ensure that grantees only had to work with one grant-making agency for all of their programs.
We reviewed the Meth Initiative from two perspectives. First, we reviewed the COPS Office’s management and administration of its meth grant funds. Second, we performed audits of selected grants that the COPS Office awarded under the Meth Initiative between FYs 1998 and 2004.12
To review the COPS Office’s management and administration of the Meth Initiative, we examined correspondence, grant manuals, policies, and procedures. We also interviewed officials and staff in the COPS Office, the DEA, and OJP. Further, we researched the appropriation legislation and related legislative history. In addition, we reviewed statistics on meth labs, seizures of meth, and other meth-related topics collected by EPIC, as well as historical information about the emergence of the meth problem. Finally, we attended the 2005 COPS Meth Conference to obtain background information, make contact with individual grantees, and observe information-sharing among participants.
To assess grantee performance at the local level, we conducted audits of 44 grants (to 13 separate entities) that the COPS Office awarded from the inception of the program in FY 1998 through FY 2004. We conducted these audits to determine whether the grantees complied with requirements regarding grantee financial reporting, grant drawdowns, and budget management and control. In addition, we tested expenditures to determine if costs charged to the grant program were allowable, supported, and in accordance with applicable regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grants.
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