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Police have new weapon in arsenal for fighting meth problem

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By Sara Manifold, Community Editor

In the next year, the meth lab bust rate could skyrocket in Posey County and possibly the whole state of Indiana.

This week, Indiana State Police launched a new website that will help police — state, county and municipal — keep track of meth ingredient purchases, and also receive tips from the public.
The tracking of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the production of meth, is nothing new in Indiana.
Target and Walmart pharmacies were among the firsts to volunteer to electronically submit their log to police, Indiana State Police Meth Suppression First Lt. Niki Crawford said.
However, the new web-based database, will facilitate easier use for pharmacies that currently keep paper logs of the medications they sell.
Crawford said during a press conference Thursday the new site will not only allow for major pharmacies to submit electronic logs, but will facilitate a platform for small, independently-owned  pharmacies to use them as well.
But IMIS is a little more complex than just a log, Crawford said. The site is used as an investigatory tool that will help link illegal pseudoephedrine purchasers with other possible purchasers in the area, known as “smurf” groups — a circle of people
Police use the term “smurf groups” to describe a group of people, with a goal of making meth, who will travel around to different pharmacies to buy the legal amount of the ingredient.
The state of Indiana, in 2005, required pharmacies to sell pseudoephedrine from behind the counter, and required purchasers to give their information with identification and a signature.
In 2010, Indiana legislators passed a law that reflects sales restrictions enacted nation-wide.
According to Indiana Law, purchasers of PSE may only buy 3.6 grams in one day, and 9.0 grams in a 30-day period.
The online program, which was free to Indiana and its counties and towns, was created from a federal grant awarded to Tennessee and was officially launched in Indiana in March.
On Thursday, two members of Posey County's narcotics unit went through the four-hour training to use the online database at the Indiana State Police patrol site north of Evansville.
Posey County Narcotics Unit director Kenny Rose said the local unit makes arrests on over-limit charges of pseudoephedrine often.
However, “anytime you can efficiently track pseudoephedrine sales,” Rose said it does hinder meth makers' ability to produce the drug.
Prior to the new system, Rose said police would track the illegal purchases by sifting through paper logs kept by pharmacies in the county.
What used to take weeks, even months, will now take police anywhere from an hour to a day to track illegal pseudoephedrine sales and identify “smurf” groups.
“This just makes it much more efficient,” Rose said.
But the database won't flag legitimate purchasers of pseudoephedrine. Combined with previous arrests and charges related to meth can flag a concern for police.
“A lot of leg work goes into it,” Crawford said. The database is used as an indicator, but all information must be verified.

A Public View
The website can be accessed by anyone who wants information about meth, statistics and who to contact if you suspect a meth lab near your home.
There is also a place for people to anonymously submit information about a possible meth lab. The only thing they must submit, Crawford said, is the location where they suspect the lab. For more information about the website, go to www.in.gov/meth. The public will not be able to access the site for retailers or investigators.