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Table of Contents

The Methamphetamine Siege - Historical Background

Unfortunately, Polk County became a methamphetamine distribution point for the Southeastern United States. Due to this, great emphasis has been placed on the investigation and seizure of methamphetamine laboratories. These efforts are typically very successful. Following the methamphetamine laboratories era and even proceeding it, methamphetamine was being shipped from California to Polk County. In the early 1990's, a loosely knit task force consisting of the Sheriff's Office, local police departments, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), began investigating the historical aspects of methamphetamine shipments from California and began dismantling organizations responsible for these shipments. During this period, the individuals involved with these efforts were predominantly male and female Caucasians.

In early 1995, the El Paso Intelligence Center reports began to reflect record seizures of methamphetamine along the Southwest border, particularly in Texas and California. Even then it was predicted, that within the year, the Mexican marijuana smuggling organizations in the county would expand into the methamphetamine trade. During this same period, debriefing reports from the El Paso Intelligence Center predicted this same trend. A documentary by one of the major news networks depicted an interview with a long time methamphetamine trafficker who made the following statement;

"If you think the Cocaine Wars were bad, brother, you ain't seen nothing yet 'cause the Amphetamine Wars are going to be ten times worse."

Between the years of 1992 - 1995, a total of 30.8 pounds of methamphetamine was seized with only a small portion of the cases in mid to late 1995 being attributed to Hispanic trafficking organizations. In 1996, 55 pounds of methamphetamine were seized, all of which were linked to Hispanic Methamphetamine Trafficking Organizations. There was a total of 49 Federal indictments relative to these methamphetamine investigations, with an additional 99 Methamphetamine Trafficking cases being prosecuted in State Court.  In the years between 1993 - 1995, there were only 48 Federal indictments stemming from Methamphetamine investigations. In 1997, there was a reduction in Methamphetamine seizures which appeared to be a direct result of the successful seizures and prosecutions in 1996.

In early 2002, "ice" a more powerful concentrated version of Methamphetamine began to appear in Polk County.  "Ice" is a form of methamphetamine that can only be smoked, and is not easily "cut" or diluted.

As of 2006, "ice" has nearly replaced powdered or "dirty" methamphetamine in Polk County.  Due to its high purity level, "ice" commands a higher price in the drug market.

Intelligence sources indicate that although there still is a significant Methamphetamine Trafficking problem in Polk County, the Hispanic Trafficking organizations are becoming more active in the adjoining counties of Hillsborough, Hardee, Pasco, and Highlands.


The National Drug Intelligence Centers, Mexico/Central America Unit, published a report in June 1995 that also indicated the dynamics of illicit methamphetamine production was changing. Since 1990, particularly in California, the use of phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) as the primary precursor for methamphetamine has increasingly been replaced by the ephedrine process. Recognizing the simplicity of the ephedrine process, the ease of obtaining the precursor chemicals, and the flexibility in laboratory sites, the report reflects that Mexican drug organizations in particular have extended their influence in the stimulant market by using previously established networks. These organizations are producing and distributing d-methamphetamine, a drug twice as potent as its predecessor (dl-methamphetamine) which has a much greater lasting high than cocaine.

Addiction, symptoms, and reaction of Methamphetamine associated with violence.

A recent report by Dr. S. Alex Stalcup, an Addiction Specialist Advisor to the California Department of Justice, details the following reactions and warns that law enforcement should prepare for this new and violent breed of drug users.

Traditionally, methamphetamine users have suffered the same addiction cycle and withdrawal reactions as those addicted to crack cocaine. However, the new ephedrine-based methamphetamine has a usage pattern unlike cocaine.  The cycle is different due to the following factors.

Meth is:

  1. Several times more potent than cocaine, it produces sleepless binges that last up to (15) fifteen days and end with an intolerable crash.
  2. Patients have reportedly used up to one ounce per day - not for the euphoria, but for fear of the crash.
  3. An indisputable connection exists between high intensity methamphetamine use and violence.
    (1) After binging for several days, the user turns to alcohol for sleep.
    (2) Already exhausted and intensely paranoid, the user experiences hallucinations and at this point reaches his/her greatest capacity for violence.

Federal indictments/trafficking charges table:

Year Indictments Trafficking Cases
1998 N/A N/A
1999 11 N/A
2000 21 107
2001 49 101
2002 47 103
2003 41 80
2004 62 52
2005 4 54

Methamphetamine seizures table:

1998 33 NA
1999 127 NA
2000 107.6 NA
2001 153.5 195 grams
2002 195 NA
2003 94 7 lbs.
2004 47 38 lbs.
2005 31 30 lbs.

The Bureau of Special Investigations Narcotics Investigations Section consists of the following units:

Tactical Drug Unit:

Four (4) experienced detectives and one sergeant will be permanent members of the street level unit. In addition, four (4) uniformed deputies are assigned to the unit, rotating every 30 days. These deputies are trained in all aspects of street level enforcement which they carry back to their communities at the conclusion of their assignment. At the end of their rotation, the deputies should have the training and experience necessary to impact the street level problem.

Duties of this unit will include but will not be limited to:

  • Street level drug enforcement in communities throughout Polk County - Primarily those which have COP's deputies assigned.
  • Citizen contacts in response to reports of narcotics violations from the community and other law enforcement officers (Follow up on Intelligence reports).
  • Motel interdiction responding to local lodging establishments which are commonly meeting locations for drug traffickers.

The deputy rotation program to the Tactical Drug Unit has been a huge success since it was implemented in 1997. The feedback from the deputies, as well as their supervisors who have been assigned to the unit on the 30-day basis, has been excellent. This program gives the deputies an opportunity to learn new techniques involving drug interdiction and creates a better awareness of drug activity in the areas that they patrol.

Narcotics Unit:

The Narcotics Unit is comprised of a sergeant and (6) six narcotics detectives. Its primary mission is to investigate narcotic and other illegal drug related activities of less than long term, complex, or protracted nature.

Specific targets are directed toward mid level to upper level dealers. They will assist DEA with surveillance and other narcotic enforcement activities that the task force is conducting in Polk County.

The Narcotics Unit also will assist, to some degree, with the overflow from the Organized Crime Unit. Since the Organized Crime Unit has such a tremendous case load, they often ask for assistance from the Narcotics Unit regarding smaller, pro-active aspects of a large organization.

Generally, detectives assigned to the Narcotics Unit are well experienced with the execution of search warrants and undercover operations.

Controlled narcotics deliveries and attempts to identify sources of supply as well as co-conspirators are daily goals of detectives within this unit. These types of investigations sometimes require weeks of investigation in order to prepare a case for successful prosecution.

Drug Interdiction Unit:

This unit was formed in October of 1997 and is comprised of two (2) drug detection K-9's and two (2) handlers/detectives.  Both of the K-9's, named "Marcha" and "Neslie", are trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.  The Drug Interdiction Unit is primarily responsible for highway interdiction.  However, they also monitor train stations, bus depots, and even local airports.  In addition, the Drug Interdiction Unit frequents the local Polk County Schools in an attempt to locate any illegal drugs.

The Drug Interdiction Unit also assists uniform patrol in the problem drug areas in the county.  Due to the geographical size of Polk County, the Drug Interdiction Unit has become a very integral part of the Bureau of Special Investigations' Methamphetamine Enforcement Campaign.  Since October of 1997, the Drug Interdiction Unit has seized approximately five (5) pounds of methamphetamine.  Since the Drug Interdiction Unit has trained narcotics K-9's and handlers, they are able to assist the Narcotics Unit,  Methamphetamine Suppression Unit, and Organized Crime Unit.  The undercover detectives in these units rely heavily on the Drug Interdiction Unit to assist in their investigations with traffic stops, surveillance, drug searches, and arrests.

HIDTA Drug Task Force:

The Polk County (HIDTA) Task Force is a multi-agency poly drug task force working in partnership with the Whitehouse, Office of National Drug Control Policy.  Agencies participating in the task force consist of:

  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)
  • Haines City Police Department
  • Lake Wales Police Department
  • Lakeland Police Department
  • Polk County Sheriff's Office
  • United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Winter Haven Police Department.

Want to know more about HIDTA?

If you have any information that would prove helpful to us, send a email to: HIDTA@polksheriff.org.

Organized Crime Unit:

The Organized Crime Unit investigates long term cases which require detectives to possess extensive investigative experience. The types of cases the Organized Crime Unit investigates are Drug Smuggling, Money Laundering, Racketeering, and Corruption, as well as assorted other cases that may not fall under the purview of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

The Organized Crime Unit also has detectives assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administrations Task Force #1 and the Methamphetamine Task Force in Tampa, Florida.

Currently, the vast majority of the Organized Crime Unit cases (more than 50%) are methamphetamine smuggling investigations. Before the advent of the Methamphetamine Suppression Unit, more than 80% of the cases worked by the Organized Crime Unit were methamphetamine related.

Methamphetamine trafficking sentencing guidelines:

Before the "Safe Streets Initiative of 1994" After the "Safe Streets Initiative of 1994"
14 grams but less than 28 grams- minimum mandatory of three (3) calendar years state prison and pay a find of $50,000 14 grams but less than 28 grams- A level 7 offense and fine of $50,000 and no minimum mandatory sentence. The judge has the discretion and the maximum sentence is seventeen (17) months
28 grams but less than 200 grams- minimum mandatory of five (5) calendar years in state prison and pay a fine of $100,000 28 grams but less than 200 grams- A level 8 offense and fine of $100,000. The minimum sentence is 35 months in state prison. The maximum sentence is 57 months in state prison
200 grams or more- minimum mandatory of fifteen (15) calendar years and pay a find of $250,000 200 grams or more- this is the same as prior to the "Safe Streets Initiative of 1994"

Inadequacies in the current drug laws:

Trafficking Requirements
Cocaine Over 28 grams = Trafficking charge
Methamphetamine Over 14 grams = Trafficking charge

Less than Trafficking Cases
Possession of Cocaine with intent to Sell = 2nd Degree Felony
Possession of Methamphetamine with intent to Sell = 3rd Degree Felony