Opinion

Education is the basis and law and order

Guest Opinion
by Sheriff Rick Bart
Snohomish County Sheriffs Office

I love a good movie, but most of all I love a good old western movie. This past weekend one of those great black and white westerns was on. The movie is called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. It is really the best of several worlds with John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin starring in roles pitting good against evil, rich against poor, with a subplot about community responsibility all thrown together. What a great movie. At one point during the movie Jimmy Stewart is trying to teach some towns folk how to read and write. He has written a line on a chalkboard to emphasize proper English and handwriting, and at the same time stress the importance of education. It simply says, Education is the basis of law and order.
In the movie, public safety and statehood were the community issues (growth) and those opposed to it (big business in the form of cattlemen) were determined to control both. Today, in a growing Snohomish County, drug addiction and the manufacturing and sales of illegal substances, such as methamphetamine, are community issues. Your safety is at risk. Just as in the movie, education (about treatment and prevention) is the basis for a safer Snohomish County.
Think about it. Education is the basis of law and order. Even way back then they knew the earlier we can educate our children, and one another, the safer we will be. Early education and intervention are the basis of a safer future for all of us.
Imagine you are in Jimmy Stewarts western classroom and he is writing a few lessons on that blackboard for you to take home and study.
Lesson No. 1: While Snohomish County meth labs have been reduced, sales and use of meth have increased due to a large supply of Mexican drug cartel product that is readily available.
Lesson No. 2: A majority of Snohomish County property crimes, including ID theft, auto theft and burglary are related to meth.
Lesson No. 3: Publicly funded chemical dependency treatment systems are at point of implosion in Snohomish County, as well as across the state of Washington. A recent study commissioned found that the state reimbursement rates cover only 52 percent of the cost.
Lesson No. 4: DSHS estimates, based on data obtained in the Washington State Needs Assessment Household Survey, that 6,964 Snohomish County residents need chemical dependency treatment and meet low income guidelines.
Lesson No. 5: In 2006, 944 adults and 260 youth who were addicted and meet the criteria for indigent/low income treatment received chemical dependency treatment in Snohomish County. Individuals experience long waits for publicly funded treatment due to limited financial resources.
Lesson No. 6: A recent study conducted in the Snohomish County Jail (Corrections Facility) found that 74.8 percent of arrestees tested positive for some illicit drug at the time of booking. This is 11 percent higher than in 2002. One out of four arrestees tested positive for meth, over a 5 percent increase from 2002. (We arrest the same people over and over).
So what can we do, or what are we doing that is working? We know that treatment works for meth and other drug addictions. We must fund treatment and prevention programs. We know law enforcement is essential to combat illegal drug sales and the corresponding community disruption from drug usage and the criminal activity it breeds. We must fund additional police officers, prosecutors, drug courts and public defenders. We know that the new law that restricts pseudophedrine sales quantity and placing pills behind the pharmacy counters has been successful. We know that citizen based groups like Lead On America and Citizens for a Safer Snohomish County work in crime reduction. We know that crime prevention officers work. We know that our Snohomish County Youth Meth Action Team has educated over 10,000 middle and high school kids about drug abuse. We must continue to work together as a community to solve this problem.
Dont fool yourself, the demand for illicit drugs is a (big) business like anything else, and the profit margin is in the actual retail distribution. Currently, every politician I know is courting business in one way or another to come to, or stay in, Snohomish County. Many of them are trying to take credit for our economic growth. Many of those same politicians are unwilling to face the rising crime rates by way of not funding public safety, or not taking credit for slow police response and rapid growth of the illicit drug industry. This has to change. Treatment and prevention should not be considered an after thought and stood in the corner with public safety by our elected decision makers. We should expect more from everyone, including ourselves.
The biggest business of them all (illicit drug sales and manufacturing) is flourishing all around us and we need to put a stop to it. Expecting results when we dont change the way we operate gets the same old results. Please help by organizing a community meeting, a block watch, or participating in an after school youth activity. Support any and all efforts for increased Drug Courts and public initiatives to aid our failing treatment and prevention systems. Support treatment and prevention and put this business out of business.
Education is the basis of law and order.

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