Methamphetamine has long been an epidemic in Indian Country, devastating users, their families and their communities. To help arm the Oneida Indian Nation in its battle against the deadly drug, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Rural Policing Institute is offering a free workshop on meth investigations to the Nation’s police department on March 21.
The workshop, which is scheduled to take place at the Oneida Indian Nation Police Department’s headquarters in Canastota, New York, is expected to draw the attendance of tribal police officers as well as personnel from local and state agencies, including the New York Police Department.
According to “Methamphetamine in Indian Country: An American Problem Uniquely Affecting Indian Country,” a fact sheet published by the National Congress of American Indians in 2006, Native American and Native Hawaiian communities have the highest meth usage rates in the nation. That rate is 1.7 percent among American Indians/Alaska Natives and 2.2 percent among Native Hawaiians, compared to 0.7 percent for whites, 0.5 percent for Hispanics, 0.2 percent for Asians and 0.1 percent for African Americans. On some reservations, the usage rate has been as high as 30 percent.
For most tribal police forces, meth is the greatest drug threat in their communities. About 40 percent of violent crime in Indian communities is attributable to meth, and it is also linked to increased domestic violence and child neglect and abuse incidents.
Oneida Indian Nation Police Chief Joe Smith said that meth usage and labs are not yet a problem on the reservation. But there have been big busts over the past year and a half in New York’s surrounding Madison and Oneida counties. It is just a matter of time, Smith fears, before his turf is affected: “We are going to be extremely proactive to keep it from coming into our area.”
The free workshop covers the meth culture, effects of the drug on abusers, a basic understanding of methamphetamine labs, the hazards associated with them and the dangers faced by children found in meth-addicted households.
This is the third DHS-RPI-provided session that the Oneida Indian Nation Police Department has hosted over the past 12 months, and there are more to come. In June 2012, the department will be hosting workshops in basic law enforcement photography and sex crimes investigation.