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An Unacceptable Risk To Our Neighborhoods

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Senator Tom O'Mara

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The New York State Police and Southern Tier law enforcement agencies continue to do outstanding work to combat the resurgence of methamphetamine (and other illegal drugs) in too many local communities and neighborhoods.

Most recently, in Steuben County, following a months-long investigation involving officers from five police agencies and Child Protective Service workers, “Operation Safe Summer” took dangerous criminals off the street.

Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker said, “This cooperative multi-agency investigation led to 26 sealed indictments being handed up against 19 individuals for drug trafficking, narcotics, methamphetamine and other controlled substances in the Village of Bath, the Town of Bath and the surrounding communities." 

Good work. Clearly, law enforcement continues to be the front line in this long-standing battle. We have to keep strengthening and updating the laws they need to be most effective.  
 
The Senate recently approved legislation I have sponsored for several years targeting the resurgence of meth-related crimes locally and statewide. It would significantly increase the criminal penalties for manufacturing, selling and possessing meth, and targets meth labs.

Specifically, the legislation would increase the criminal penalties for the possession of meth manufacturing material and the unlawful manufacture of meth, implementing a series of increasingly severe felony offenses.  One provision makes it a Class A-1 felony, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, for criminals convicted of operating a meth lab for the second time in five years. The legislation also establishes the crime of manufacturing meth in the presence of a child under the age of 16 as a Class B felony.  

Meth labs pose unacceptable risks to our neighborhoods, as well as roadsides and wooded areas where children and others can be exposed to the hazardous and toxic residues of these labs. They threaten the safety of police officers and first responders, and the public at large.  

We need even tougher laws against dangerous and irresponsible meth cookers who have no regard for the health and safety of the rest of us. Their only byproducts are addiction, crime, overdoses, broken families, tragic deaths and violence. They increasingly burden local systems of health care, criminal justice and social services. Awareness and education, prevention and treatment are fundamental responses. But so are tougher laws and criminal penalties, and it’s time for the Assembly Democratic leadership to act.

I’m also sponsoring legislation to:

  •  increase the criminal penalties for the possession and/or sale of meth by implementing an increasingly severe set of felony offenses; 
  • 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 the manufacturing of methamphetamine; and 
  • target one of the worst dangers associated with clandestine meth labs: explosions and fires. The legislation would add the crime of first-degree arson, a Class A-1 felony, to the list of charges that could be levelled against a meth cooker who causes a fire or an explosion that damages property or injures another person.


From “Operation Safe Summer” to many others, the increasing frequency of meth-related arrests and other incidents across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions is alarming. 

It calls for imposing stricter criminal penalties for possessing the material to make or for manufacturing this highly addictive, dangerous and destructive drug.  

"From The Capitol" is a weekly column distributed to local media by Senator O'Maras office for publication. 

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