Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shrinking Budgets Force New Thinking On Meth Lab Cleanup

I've said before that I thought that the fiscal crisis would lead to more efficient ways of doing things in law enforcement. There's a story over at NPR that demonstrates this effect.

In Tennessee, police used to call in certified contractors to neutralize those poisons and haul them away. It cost about $2,000 each time, which the federal government used to pay until budget cuts this spring.

Now, Tennessee authorities are turning to people like Kentucky State Police Sgt. Gerald Wilson, to learn how to do it themselves. Wilson is teaching a class of about 30 officers from across Tennessee how to use pH strips to help figure out what they're dealing with. Wilson's role here is like teaching a person to fish: teach a police officer to clean up a meth lab, and he'll save his agency thousands.

"Last year the state of Kentucky spent approximately $440,000 on cleanup using the container system that we have now, where the state of Tennessee spent approximately $4.5 million having contractors respond to the sites and cleaning them up that way," Wilson says.

Kentucky had only about half as many labs as Tennessee, but it still saved a lot of money with that container system — lockers where police take all the hazards they find in meth labs.

There is nothing like a lean budget to force agencies to innovate. The old way of throwing money at a problem may be the easiest way to solve a problem but it isn't the only way.

And it's not just meth lab clean up that is benefiting from innovation spurred by fiscal austerity. Quite a number of crime analysis principles can be used to focus your agency's efforts. These include things like focussing on prolific offenders, hot spot policing, DDACTS, and other techniques.

What are you doing to help your agency do more with less?

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