“We get these materials for free from the Department of Health and Human Science in Washington D.C., specifically for the purpose of passing it along to anyone who is interested in helping us raise drug awareness in our community,” Walker County Sheriff Narcotics Agent Chuck Tidwell said. “These materials cover the dangers of abusing a variety of drugs from prescription medications and methamphetamine to heroine and inhalants. We have posters, coloring books and even videos available free of charge.”
Tidwell said the material he has available right now is targeted more for second and third graders and fifth and sixth graders, but he expects to receive material geared toward the older students as well.
“Anyone interested in obtaining our drug awareness materials can just contact me here at the Sheriff’s Office. I’ll be glad to send some of it to them,” Tidwell said. “We also still have our meth hearse, which we use in our drug awareness programs, available to use at any event and will be glad to bring it out anytime.”
Tidwell said the meth hearse is a mobile classroom, which they use to show students what could happen to them if they abuse drugs or huff inhalants in an effort to get high.
“We still have a big problem in this county regarding meth and prescription drugs, but we are starting to see cases involving inhalants,” Tidwell said. “And I have a feeling that may get worse if we, as a community, don’t start teaching our children the dangers of messing around with this stuff.”
Another major problem law enforcement agencies are fighting regarding methamphetamines, is “smurfing.”
“Smurfing is when the person manufacturing meth, gets Joe Blow or anybody off the street for that matter, to go out a buy one of the main ingredients needed to make the stuff, which is pseudoephedrine,” Tidwell said. “New laws have been put in place that limit the amount of pseudoephedrine a person can have in their possession at one time, but meth manufacturers have found a way around it. They’re paying other people go out and buy more.”
The new laws only allow a person to purchase a total 15 to 20 grams of pseudoephedrine in a one month period. But Tidwell said a lot of the smurfers will go into other counties to purchase it and then bring it back here to either trade for meth or sell for triple what they paid for it, so they can buy whatever amount of drugs they need.
“A lot of our smurfers like to go to Jefferson and St. Clair counties, and they think we don’t know where they’re going, but we do,” Tidwell said. “Thanks to a new system that has been put in place, and a lot of pharmacies and law enforcement agencies are using these days, we can track them pretty much anywhere, even if they go out of state.”
But smurfing doesn’t just involve the purchase of pseudoephedrine, Tidwell said. It also involves the purchase of other components used in the making meth, such as lantern fuel and starter fluid.
“Some of the cooks are pretty much cooking the dope for themselves, but they will have a bunch of people who are going out here and getting the other components needed to make it,” Tidwell said. “They’ll have certain ones who are buying the pseudoephedrine pills, or certain one who going to stores that sell the lantern fluid. Most of the time at these labs, we find five or six people at them and everybody has had a part in it.”
Tidwell said people who are “smurfing” for a meth manufacturer will spend the majority of their day going out and picking up supplies.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in pseudoephedrine sells, so we know the manufacturing of meth is still going on in our county, the meth cooks are just hiding it more,” Tidwell said. “They’re doing it either later at night or in the early morning when they think no one is around. But what helps us, is when the people call in and let us know when they smell a strange odor in their neighborhood. That’s our window of opportunity to catch these folks.”
Tidwell said if the caller doesn’t know the exact location the smell is coming from that doesn’t matter, because it still gives law enforcement a leg up. “If we just have a general idea about where the smell is coming from, we can track it by the people we know live in the area,” Tidwell said. “If we have known meth users who live in the area, we’ll check them out first. So if you suspect something like that is going on in your neighborhood, don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll be glad to come and check it out.”
Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey said, almost every family in our county has had some negative experience with a loved one who is abusing drugs or has abused drugs in the past.
“The Sheriff’s Office continues to fight the drug problem in our county with these families in mind,” Tirey said. “We can also attribute the majority of the crime in Walker County to the use, sale or possession of illegal drugs. Our goal is to make Walker County a safe and drug-free place to live.”
If you would like more information about the free drug awareness materials or you have a tip regarding illegal drug activity being conducted in your community, please contact Tidwell or Blair Huddleston at (205) 302-6125 or (205) 302-6464. Tips may also be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.