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Posted on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Washtenaw County meth use lags behind other drugs, but LAWNET says it's increasing

By Kyle Feldscher


A member of the Michigan State Police Meth Response Team cleans up a meth lab found in Ypsilanti last year.

Courtney Sacco I

Prominent in rural areas, methamphetamine has not historically been a popular drug in Washtenaw County. However, one law enforcement official said meth is here. And, its use is spreading.

“They’re here, I know they are,” said Detective Lt. Dale Smith, of the Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team (LAWNET). “We’ve done five or six (meth lab busts) in the last couple months, but the public doesn’t know what they’re looking at.”

Smith said the MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette investigation into methamphetamine in southwest Michigan has put the drug in the spotlight for LAWNET investigators.

Meth is a highly-addictive stimulant, often coming in powder form or in small rocks, according to Michigan Meth Watch Program. The drug is usually white or slightly yellow, depending on purity, and releases high levels of dopamine.

According to Michigan Meth Watch Program, the drug can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat and extreme anorexia.

Meth does not usually have a big presence in Washtenaw County. Law enforcement officials who previously spoke to about the drug said the use of meth is widespread in rural areas and becomes rarer as the population density increases.

Smith said there aren’t any large meth operations operating in the area, with mostly one-pot operations sporadically populating the county. There’s not a lot of money to be made in the local meth trade, with dealers often selling the drug to buy more products to make their own.

Smith said dealers run out of product after about two or three days, and have to make more.

“These things are so dangerous and so easy to make,” he said. “Basically, everything you need to know is on the Internet.”

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Geoffrey Fox said deputies believe the drug is still lagging behind others in popularity in Washtenaw.

“We come across small cooking ops (operations) from time to time, but it is not as prevalent as the other drugs,” Fox wrote in an email.

In the past 12 months, from June 27, 2012, to Thursday, the sheriff’s office investigated seven methamphetamine cases, Fox said. Two of those cases were possession of methamphetamine and five were meth possession and operating a meth lab, Fox said.

The other drugs Fox was referring to are crack cocaine and heroin, two substances that have traditionally kept meth out of Washtenaw, Smith said.

Heroin has been identified as a growing problem in Washtenaw County, especially after 10 overdoses were reported in two weeks earlier this month. Two of those overdoses were fatal.

Police said heroin has started to outstrip crack cocaine as the cheap drug of choice in parts of Washtenaw County. Smith said that availability might explain why meth use, though spreading, is still limited.

“It’s strange how this area has been rather isolated,” he said. “Predominantly, it’s because crack cocaine and heroin are so available, and that crack is so cheap, that people have never really needed to us (meth).”

Saline police Detective Don Lupi said there's just been one recent meth possession case in the city.

"We’ve only got one confirmed case of possession recently," he said. "Other than that we haven’t seen much of it."

The slightest hint of meth increase its spreading in Washtenaw County is a cause for concern for law enforcement officials like Smith, whose LAWNET force specifically targets drug crime in Livingston and Washtenaw counties.

“This stuff could cripple drug units like us because we’d spend all our time doing that,” he said.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 7:36 p.m.

It's not just the meth on the streets you have to worry about. It's the meth that can be lingering in homes, as well! You can read the list of houses being listed as former meth labs here:


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

However, clearly, there aren't many here in Washtenaw County...compared to the west side of the state!


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 6:56 p.m.

There has been a problem with "meth" in washtenaw county for years and years. The thing with meth is that its pretty cheap and easy to make so it is very rare for there to be a shortage/drought that causes supply to dwindle and prices to spike... (high prices require more criminal activity to fund addiction. In addition to the "homeless" and or hillbilly meth addict stereotypes, meth is also used as a club drug. These users do not typically have to commit crimes to fund their habits as they just use their parents money, part time job funds, or student loan money to keep their habits going. If the heroin scare did not work, this one might have a better chance, since there are more meth users (amphetamine users of all types) in the county than Heroin users (though there are probably more pill and opioid derivative users overall)


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 4:51 p.m.

Imagine that.....LAWNET is exaggerating the problem once again...possibly looking for more federal funds are we?


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

LAWNET is the personal army of Bill Schuette. No thanks.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

"We've only got one confirmed case of possession recently," he said. "Other than that we haven't seen much of it." .... Well, that's all I need to hear. Set up stop-and-search road blocks and cancel Christmas. The anecdotal, force-fed drug scare stories on this web site are becoming almost comical at this point.

Frank Ganhusen

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

"In the past 12 months, from June 27, 2012, to Thursday, the sheriff's office investigated seven methamphetamine cases, Fox said. Two of those cases were possession of methamphetamine and five were meth possession and operating a meth lab, Fox said." I believe what you're quoting refers to cases only in Saline.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

The city I currently work in, on the other side of the country was hit hard by meth. It was "the meth capital" at one point, and the last effects of this drug can be seen. I step out of my building and towards the parking garage, and see at least 5 homeless people daily you could tell were on this drug. I can totally understand law enforcement's desire to keep this problem away long before it arrives.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

@eye...not even close to homeless...he owns his own free!


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

I walk into Grizzly Peaks and pass 5 homeless people. One of which seems to occasionally require the use of a crutch.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

It's becoming obvious that Marihuana will soon be legal, so those in the Drug War Industry have to come up with other "Drug Problems" to scare us into thinking that LAWNET actually performs a useful purpose.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:23 p.m.

I hope they can do something to deter the rampant and obvious drug sales happening in downtown A2...and if you haven't seen these transactions, you are paying attention!


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

We have never been able to stop drug use with police enforcement. All we are doing is loading up the jails with users and then having to release some violent offenders to make room for new druggies.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

Kind of like what happened after Russia fell & the military industrial complex needed a boogie man...& poof there was Al-Qaeda. Now we can have an endless war & endless profits

Basic Bob

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Nailed it! This is the first LAWNET story since they raided a downtown business selling a recently banned synthetic drug. Before that they busted a legitimate business and a meth lab the neighbors were complaining about. It doesn't take a secret task force to make these kinds of busts. They must be in Deep Cover bringing down some Drug Kingpin. We can only hope.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

Just wait until we build that train to Livingston County.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Drug task force concerned about more drugs! No real statistics available, but here's a few anecdotes. Small town X has gone from none to one confirmed user. 0.002% of county residents confirmed involved in drug trade. This story is so evergreen you should cut it down, stuff it in a bucket of water and use it as your christmas tree.

Kyle Feldscher

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

Theodynus - Here's why you should be concerned about this drug, in particular, increasing in Washtenaw County: Most theft crimes are committed by people looking to feed a drug addiction, and methamphetamine is one of the most serious drug addictions someone can have. If this drug were to become a significant player in the Washtenaw County area, home invasions, burglaries, robberies and larcenies can all potentially increase as there are more people getting more desperate to feed this dangerous addiction.

Mr. Ed

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 11:53 a.m.

Marihuana is a gate way drug "0"

Jaime Magiera

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

Countdown to "marijuana is a gateway drug and to blame for meth use" in 5,4,3,2,...


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

You're right, the last time the topic was heroin, and the marijuana as gateway discussion took off. No one drug should be looked at in isolation, rather the issue of addiction to all abused substances. We should not wait for a specific problem drug to become enormous before addressing it. A percentage of the population will become addicted to these substances with horrific consequences for them, those who loved them and society. Unfortunately we have a government that sets a precedent that profit by taxation on tobacco and liquor at the expense of life is acceptable.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

They should probably do something about this, I guess, but it's hard to find the manpower when so much of law enforcement resources seem directed against legal marijuana dispensaries. That's only to be expected, of course, since the dispensaries have neon signs and are in the Yellow Pages, but you have to looking for the meth labs.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 11:04 a.m.

Kid's don't drink as much any more since the penalties are too severe and too easy to detect. Our community supports marijuana usage, almost encourages it's use by celebrating it every year. This puts our kids in groups with people involved in the drug trade where they are offered things like heroin and meth. And then we are surprised and alarmed by the increase in other drugs. You reap what you sow people................

Jaime Magiera

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

As George Carlin pointed out, the real gateway drug is breast milk.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

Alcohol is the most common gateway drug.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

You mean this?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 10:40 a.m.

I had an interesting chat with the Ann Arbor City Manager, Steve Powers, the night before last. Knowing that I've been a past critic of staffing levels to facilitate criminal investigations and proactive policing to solve local property crimes (most of which are caused by drug users stealing to get the money to support their habit), he told me "I think you'll be pleased to hear that" the city has been able to reform its crime investigation unit and added one detective to the staff. This was accomplished by shifting existing resources around. Based on his conversation, I would credit his (Steve Powers') initiative and Police Chief Seto for this positive development. We also need a better strategy to get drug users clean and sober and out of a life of crime to support their addictions, but that is entirely a different topic.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

I'm sorry are often spot on....but unless you have a mouse in your pocket, the "we" you refer to will not include me....drug and alcohol abuse are "diseases" in a lot of opinions...but they are diseases of choice.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

"We also need a better strategy to get drug users clean and sober and out of a life of crime to support their addictions, but that is entirely a different topic" Don't always agree with everthing you say Stephen, but this is spot on!