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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Crystal Mess: Drug Takes Hold
by Andrew Davis
2005-02-23

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Pictured Anderson's arrest photo. Also see WCT's Feb. 2 in-depth exploration of the crystal meth crisis, which came out one week before the current related news.

A senior director of development with Howard Brown Health Center ( HBHC ) was arrested Feb. 16 at his place of employment on a charge of crystal methamphetamine possession with intent to distribute.

According to police spokesman Pat Camden, Michael Anderson was taken in after officers uncovered 109 grams of crystal meth—with a street value of $36,600—at Anderson's residence at 747 W. Cornelia.

Officers also found a quantity of the date rape drug GHB on the kitchen table as well as two digital scales in the closet. Camden also said that when Anderson was arrested, police discovered two vials of what appeared to be crystal meth and GHB in his pants pocket. Officers found out where Anderson worked when they located a business card at his home.

Gary Yamashiroya, the 23rd District Police District commander, could not specify what led officers to execute a search warrant.

'All I can say is that we got information that led us to Anderson's home,' he said.

Ironically, the officers in the district were planning on starting a crystal meth education program in conjunction with HBHC, Yamashiroya stated: 'It was going to be similar to Operation: Play Safe [ an awareness campaign aimed primarily at Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood that called attention to the prevention of street crime ] .' However, he stressed that Anderson's arrest would not sour the officers' relationship with the facility. 'Howard Brown has been a great partner against crime and has done a lot of positive work,' Yamashiroya said. 'This arrest is no reflection of the organization in general. The police department would very much like to continue working with them.'

HBHC Executive Director Keith Waterbrook told Windy City Times that he is 'stunned' by the development and that the experience 'has been traumatic for the employees and the patients.' When asked about Anderson's status at HBHC, Waterbrook responded that he 'is on leave of absence pending the outcome of what we do internally or the outcome of the legal [ proceedings ] .' However, he added that HBHC would continue plans to implement a crystal meth education program.

Anderson's next court appearance is scheduled for March 30.

'Crack cocaine of 21st century'

Anderson's arrest may have a higher profile than others related to crystal meth, but make no mistake—there have been many. For example, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that a Chicago Public Schools administrator, John Lowry, was busted last fall in the 2400 block of West McLean and that John Sloan, a schoolteacher, was arrested with $17,000 of meth in his apartment in the 3900 block of North Lake Shore Drive.

According to 23rd Police District Lieutenant Robert Stasch ( of the Tactical and Gang Unit ) , crystal meth use is skyrocketing. 'We're about here,' he said while holding his right hand in front of him—'and this is how far we have to go,' he told Windy City Times, holding his left hand about a foot higher. A reflection of the exponential use of the drug lies in the number of search warrants executed over the past two years. According to Stasch, the number rose from 14 in 2003 to 68 in 2004 ( from the tactical unit alone ) . 'It's spreading so quickly,' Stasch stated. 'Meth is the crack cocaine of the 21st century.'

Part of the problem is that crystal meth is relatively inexpensive to make and the profits can be huge. 'People can take the right ingredients and make a good amount for about $250 and then turn around and sell it for up to $18,000,' Stasch said.

Another problem is that the high is intense and long-lasting—sometimes stretching for days. A euphoria that intense and long can easily lure vulnerable people to destruction. 'There's a guy who I arrested [ recently ] ,' 23rd District officer Nenad Markovich said to Windy City Times during a talk on Feb. 8. 'We executed a search warrant on him about eight months ago; he had a residence then. Due to his use, he lost his place—but every little bit of money he finds goes to getting more crystal. It just kills me.'

Several reports have pointed to the gay neighborhoods in Lakeview and Andersonville as being hotbeds of meth use. When asked why he thinks this is, Markovich formulated his own theory: 'This drug can keep people up for 36 hours or more. I asked one guy why he'd want to be up for that long and he said, 'So I can have sex.' We often find Viagra with people who have crystal meth. People say that the drug keeps them partying.' Markovich said meth use seems to be drifting into the Bucktown and Wicker Park areas.

The state has tried to do its part to curb the manufacture of the drug. Illinois recently passed the Methamphetamine Manufacturing Chemical Retail Sale Control Act, which changes the way some businesses are packaging, displaying, and selling cold tablets. For instance, cold tablets that contain the chemical pseudoephedrine—used in making meth—may be placed behind the counter or in a locked case. The act requires other safeguards. First, the cold tablets must be sold in blister packs containing no more than three grams of ephedrine ( which can also be used to make the drug ) or pseudoephedrine in a package. Also, retailers may not sell more than two packages of cold tablets containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine at a time.

There is also a product called GloTell, which prevents another common meth ingredient from being used. According to Stasch, the compound is added to anhydrous ammonia ( a key meth component ) and it turns the chemical purple. The color lasts through the meth-making process, not only turning the end product purple, but also staining the noses of those who snort it as well as the injection sites of those who shoot it. Therefore, those who use meth can be quickly apprehended.

Setting the record straight

The constant execution of search warrants has left a bad taste in the mouths of some members of the gay community. 'I get a lot of grief from people—even when my partner and I go out to clubs,' said Markovich.

'I'd like to set the record straight regarding our motivation. We're not out there for enforcement only. I get people who come up to me—and who don't know that I'm gay—and say 'You're only after us because we're gay',' Markovich stated. 'People have to get that out of their minds and stop using that as a political tool. What happens in your bedroom happens there. Nobody's different. From Roscoe's to Cubby Bear—it's all the same; it's not personal. People look at me like 'Oh ... you're the guy who busted my buddy.' Well, I wouldn't have had to bust your buddy if he hadn't been using illegal substances.'

Also, he said that the bar scene is getting worse in terms of drugs: 'You go out to clubs and see who the people are who are using—they're usually the ones drinking water. [ For example, ] you can't mix GHB and liquor; you could get convulsions and die. I've actually seen signs that read 'Don't mix GHB and liquor.' Well, that's not the answer. The answer is to not have GHB around in the first place.'

When asked about how concerned he was about Fireball, the Hearts Foundation parties this past weekend in Chicago, Markovich was sanguine: 'We've done a pretty good blitz the past couple of years. We've instituted pat-downs at all events. However, if someone is stupid enough to bring something in, then shame on them.' He also talked about a change in ideology with the Hearts Foundation: 'I told them that we have to educate the public that they can party without having a 'party.'' ( Markovich is on the board of the Hearts Foundation. He was also involved with security for Fireball. )

Getting help

'The problem [ with meth ] is twofold,' said Markovich. 'You get a lot of arrests but there are also plenty of repeat offenders. There needs to be a different way of incarcerating and treating people. The community itself has to get out there and get together—law enforcement officers, psychologists, and other people need to [ band ] together. It's sad how all of these intelligent people are letting this drug take over their lives.'

People who are seeking help for crystal meth addiction can visit the Crystal Meth Anonymous web site at www.crystalmeth.org; they can e-mail cmachicago@hotmail.com or call Howard at ( 773 ) 248-1009 or ( 312 ) 371-6610 as well as Mike at ( 773 ) 348-2533. In addition, people can visit the Chicago Lakeshore Hospital Web site at www.aurorabehavioral.com/chicago.

'People can [ also ] feel free to reach me at ( 312 ) 744-6207,' said Markovich. 'They don't even have to give me their names; they can be totally anonymous. I'll drive them wherever they need to go. Whoever turned them on to it is just using them; those people are not their friends. We can't just give people free rein to kill each other—or themselves.'

Stasch added that people can take responsibility by notifying police if they notice certain odors: 'If a person smells something that [ resembles ] ammonia, rotten eggs, or something similar, dial 911. It could be a sign that a meth lab is very close.' In this case, possible overreaction seems to be preferable to apathy. As Markovich put it, 'Someone who doesn't do anything is just as guilty as someone who's dealing.'

Center on Halsted Statement

Robbin Burr, the executive director of the Center on Halsted, said the 'Center is saddened and shaken by the unfortunate events related to the illegal and dangerous use of drugs, specifically methamphetamine, that are occurring in our community.' COH has an LGBT hotline at ( 773 ) 929-HELP that is open every day from 6-10 p.m.


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