Updated 12-27-19 at 7:10 p.m.
HANCEVILLE, Ala. – The Hanceville Police Department (HPD) recently helped take down a Center Point man who was allegedly supplying methamphetamine to Cullman County. The investigation began in Cullman County with the HPD and led to a handover to authorities in Jefferson County and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).
Lewis Dejuan Owens, 42, described by the HPD as a “major player” in the drug scene, was arrested and charged with trafficking in methamphetamine after he was found with approximately 6 pounds and 2 ounces of ICE methamphetamine.
HPD Assistant Chief Adam Hadder did not hold back when talking about what he says is the biggest problem in the county.
“In 22 years of policing, I’ve never seen it this bad in regards to the amount of methamphetamine in Cullman County. Meth is biggest problem we have in Cullman County, all over the county, and even all the surrounding counties,” he said.
Hadder said he believes the increase in the amount of meth, cheap meth compared to years past, is due in part to the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel flooding the U.S. market with the illicit drug.
“Basically, the cartel has saturated the market with ICE and that’s why it’s so cheap,” he said. “Fifteen years ago, an ounce of ICE, if you could even find it, was $1,000-$1,500. Now an ounce of ICE is about $300. It’s so plentiful and the majority of it is coming to Cullman County out of Birmingham and Jefferson County.”
Indeed, according to a report from geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor Worldview, “The ease of producing methamphetamine makes it a profitable venture for Mexican cartels. Until the U.S. demand for drugs diminishes, the country will be awash in Mexican-made meth.” (The full report can be found at https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/cartel-connection-meth-americas-streets-drugs-dea, subscription required.)
Hadder said the ever-increasing amount of meth in Hanceville is what led the HPD to initiate the investigation that led to Owens.
Hadder explained, “We got with ALEA and Jefferson County and we were able to carry out a bust on him- 6 pounds and 2 ounces; 6 pounds is a ton. It doesn’t sound like much until you do the math at $300 an ounce.”
Even with the charges against him and the multi-department bust, Owens is already out of the Jefferson County Jail.
Those arrested on drug offenses and walking without bond are a huge source of frustration for law enforcement agencies in Cullman County, many of whom have expressed that frustration to The Cullman Tribune because they say the offenders are usually arrested again and again.
Since the institution of a federal judge’s injunction against Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry on Sept. 13, 2018, an injunction which requires him to “release all bail-eligible defendants on unsecured (non-monetary) appearance bonds,” the rate of suspects failing to show up for court dates has almost doubled; drug crimes, in which suspects already have statistically high rates of failure to appear (FTA) for court, now occur at an average of 16 to 17 more cases per month than before the injunction. Those numbers were as of June 2019. (Note: Jefferson County has a similar bond procedure to the one implemented in Cullman County.)
Under an unsecured or non-monetary bond, a suspect does not have to post bail, but simply agrees to pay what would have been the bail amount if he or she does not show up for court.
Hadder was emphatic in expressing his feelings about Cullman County’s meth problem.
“I just cannot stress enough how big of a problem it is,” he said. “I’ve seen mothers choose meth over their kids. We’ve seen overdoses. We arrest one trafficker and another pops up in his place. We’ve got to do something about it.”
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