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Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
“The resurgence of meth”
ALBANY, Dec. 10, 2018 -- It’s time to look ahead to the beginning of the 2019 session of the State Legislature, which gets underway in early January.
Consequently, over the next several weeks, I’ll use this column to highlight several of the priority issues that I intend to keep addressing in the New Year, and that I believe are critical to the short- and long-term future of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.
With that in mind, the following statement on the Chemung County Drug Enforcement Unit speaks volumes: “Methamphetamine will most likely be the drug problem of the future unless law enforcement is given the tools needed to stop its growth.”
We should heed the clear warning. Indeed, there have been increasingly steady reports of meth lab discoveries and other meth-related arrests and incidents across the region over the past few months, including in Corning, Hornell, Horseheads and, most recently, in Elmira Heights where a suspected meth lab fire was under investigation by the Elmira Heights Police Department. A recent USA Today Network report out of Binghamton noted that “the use of meth is still a scourge (throughout the Southern Tier) -- and a growing one.” According to the article, arrests for the sale, possession, or manufacture of meth have accounted for 58 local stories published so far in 2018.
In 2019, in addition to my work as a member of the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, I will also reintroduce legislation to combat the resurgence of methamphetamine-related crimes locally and across New York State by significantly increasing the criminal penalties for manufacturing, selling, and possessing the illegal and highly addictive drug.
One piece of legislation will target meth labs by increasing the criminal penalties for the possession of meth manufacturing material and the unlawful manufacture of meth, implementing a series of increasingly severe felony offenses. Additional measures will seek to significantly increase the criminal penalties for the possession and/or sale of the drug, and enhance the ability of local police and district attorneys to track and prosecute violations of restrictions on over-the-counter sales of cold medications that are key ingredients used in cooking meth.
Earlier this year, for the first time, I introduced legislation targeting one of the worst dangers associated with clandestine meth labs: explosions and fires. This proposal, which will also be reintroduced in 2019, calls for adding the crime of first-degree arson, a Class A-1 felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, to the list of charges that could be leveled against a meth cooker who causes a fire or an explosion that damages property or injures another person.
There have been increasing incidents of meth lab explosions and fires in recent years in Corning, Elmira, Elmira Heights, Hornell, and other areas. The crime of arson currently only covers intentional acts. Since explosions and fires involving meth labs are considered unintentional “accidents,” cookers cannot be charged under New York’s arson statutes. I believe they should be.
Explosions and fires caused by meth labs have caused death, injuries, and extensive property damage across the region. Meth labs pose unacceptable risks to our neighborhoods, as well as roadsides and wooded areas where children and others can be exposed to hazardous and toxic residues. They threaten the safety of police officers, firefighters, and all first responders, and the public at large.
Here’s my bottom line: New York State laws need to be as tough and as thorough as they can possibly be to try to deter and punish the irresponsible meth cookers and sellers who have no regard for the health and safety of the rest of us.
Photo in text: State Senator
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael
Lausell, Van Harp
Bottom row: Carl Blowers, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
David M. Reed
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E.
United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html
United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451
State Senator Tom O'Mara
-- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca
(Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791