What do you do if you think there's a meth house on your street?
Law enforcement agencies rely on a variety of information sources to find and arrest suspected drug-dealers. But citizens' eyes and ears are critical to letting police know what's going on in local neighborhoods.
The Clatsop County Sheriff's Office provides Meth House Community Awareness brochures that list warning signs of drug-making or drug-dealing, as well as a log for writing down suspicious activity. The brochures are available at the Sheriff's Office, 355 Seventh St. in Astoria.
Such information can be used to build cases that result in arrests and convictions of people making or dealing meth and other illegal drugs. But citizens reporting suspected drug activity shouldn't necessarily expect immediate action, according to Clatsop County Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Hahn, leader of the county's Interagency Narcotics Task Force.
Building a case against suspected drug dealers takes time - conducting surveillance, recruiting informants, making controlled drug buys, compiling evidence for search warrants and other constitutionally required steps. The recent arrest of several Seaside residents on charges of meth-dealing involved a probe that lasted four months, he said.
"We know it's frustrating," Hahn said. "People say 'the police never show up when we call, nothing ever gets done.' But there are things we have to do, and they can be time-consuming."
Task force members sometimes conduct "knock-and-talk" surprise visits to suspected drug houses, which occasionally result in arrests. But most cases involve lengthy investigations, Hahn said.
Signs of possible drug activity at a residence can include heavy foot and vehicle traffic, with visitors stopping by for short periods; accumulations of trash; blinds closed or windows boarded up; occupants who never leave and are awake or asleep for days at a time; unattended children; and frequent parties.
Citizens who suspect a neighbor is involved in drug activity are urged not to confront the person or visitors themselves but instead to document the comings and goings and report the information to the police.
Police need accurate, detailed information about the people and activity seen in and around the home. Descriptions of people's age, sex, race, dress and other features are more useful than "visitors look like drug dealers," according to the meth house brochure. Descriptions of cars and, if possible, their license plate numbers are also important.
- Tom Bennett