By Laura Fishman

"Crank," "speed," "ice," "crystal," and "Tina" are all slang names for the drug responsible for one third of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s arrests in 2006 – methamphetamine.

The Rotary Club of Santa Cruz met with over 100 community members on Jan. 16 to discuss the harmful effects of methamphetamine and what should be done to stop the growing problem.

"In the 11 years I’ve been working in law enforcement, this is the biggest crowd that I’ve seen," Santa Cruz Police Department representative Bill Azua said of the gathering.

According to Sheriff Steve Robbins, 60 percent of county drug arrests are methamphetamine related. The drug also has a harmful effect on the environment, as every pound of meth produced generates five pounds of toxic waste that seeps into soil and groundwater.

While methamphetamine is an extremely addictive drug, many people remain unaware of its dangers. At the meeting, community members and representatives from The Rotary Club of Santa Cruz blamed this lack of awareness on a scarcity of programs and lack of public information.

Citizens attending the meeting complained that they had never heard methamphetamine talked about before even though our government spends tens of millions of dollars on a war on drugs.

Bill Manov of the Santa Cruz County Drug and Alcohol Program agreed, adding that he is discouraged by the lack of funding directed toward the treatment of meth addicts. He believes that because methamphetamine is so addictive, treatment is crucial in order to get off the drug.

"Last year there was a bill that went through both sides of the legislature to expand drug treatment for teens on the medical program," Manov said. "The governor vetoed that bill."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed several bills that would have provided more drug treatment, including bill AB 855 in 2005, which would have established cash assistance and services to people convicted of non-violent drug-related felonies.

At UC Santa Cruz there are currently no drug treatment programs for students on campus. Paul Willis, an alcohol and drug educator at the Student Health Center, said he would like to see more treatment facilities in the area.

"A lot of people don’t see addiction issues as medical issues, and that’s critical for treatment," Willis said.

Concerned community members, such as Rotary Club meeting attendee Donna Schipper, have seen the devastating effects of methamphetamine and hope Santa Cruz County will begin taking meth related issues more seriously.

"We [as a community] have been using methamphetamines off and on since the early 1990s. I have not been able to get help from the police, district attorney or the community service program," she said at the meeting. "I have found no help from this community and I hope this is the beginning of something that is going to change that."