The meeting that was outlined in an article ("County plans meth summit to help curb epidemic," The Daily Astorian, Sept. 13) scheduled for February needs to be held now, not later. I lived through the drug wars of south Florida in the early 1980s. I know from personal experience what happens when highly dynamic situations of this type get out of control.

I was in the U.S. Coast Guard at the time, observing from a federal point of view; just about everyone failed to take initial ownership of the problems, and local governments attempted to mask the issues with PR slogans and the infamous "Miami is for me" campaign, with the hope things would get better. I can still remember the catchy jingles and songs run during the evening newscast, promptly followed by the daily body count, robbery statistics, and shoot-outs.

Armed robberies and open wars between rival gangs of dealers took a lot of innocent lives in the crossfire. Salesmen and delivery drivers had to chain down their delivery carts when making deliveries to prevent "grab and run" theft. This affected not only Miami, but surrounding communities as well. Iron bars around windows, doors and air conditioners were a common sight. Some residences and businesses had to install "sally ports," just like prisons and castles. Let's take ownership and not go there.

The amount of money flowing through the South American drug cartels supplying Florida was staggering. The result was an epidemic of corruption and money laundering. Meth is a highly addictive drug, with huge profits and a well-greased distribution system. Now is the time for action, not committees, focus groups and the usual dance around the fire that seems to go on and on in Clatsop County.

JIM SANTEE

Astoria

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