Perdue's latest crime fight: Meth crackdown

ATLANTA - Gov. Sonny Perdue is asking lawmakers for funding to double the number of agents on the state task force that investigates crimes involving methamphetamine.

If approved by the General Assembly this winter, the initiative would give the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Meth Force the state launched earlier this year a staff of 30 agents.

"Georgia is waging an effective battle against the scourge of methamphetamine with a strong local, state and federal coalition,'' Perdue said Tuesday during a news conference at the GBI Regional Drug Enforcement Office in Canton. "An additional 15 agents ... will double the state's efforts to combat meth and related crimes like burglaries, assaults and even homicides.''

The proposal is the third anti-crime measure unveiled by the governor in recent weeks. The other two, announced last month, would triple the force of GBI agents assigned to investigate online sexual predators who target children and boost the state's efforts against people - often illegal immigrants - who use false documents to obtain driver's licenses.

Both initiatives were quickly followed up by campaign ads, a pattern that drew objections Tuesday from Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, Perdue's Democratic opponent in next month's election.

"For the last month, Sonny Perdue has staged issue announcements to set up the next broadcast of a new political ad, and here he goes again,'' Taylor spokesman Rick Dent wrote in an e-mail. "This is not governing, it's staging. It's all hat and no cattle. Voters deserve better.''

Perdue has addressed the growth of methamphetamine abuse in several ways.

Besides jump-starting GBI's Meth Force team with $1 million in this year's budget, the governor included $1 million to help treat about 200 adult methamphetamine abusers whose families have been affected by the drug.

Last year, Perdue signed legislation that requires cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine as the sole active ingredient to be sold behind store counters. Pseudoephedrine is frequently used in clandestine labs to produce methamphetamine.

In 2004, the Legislature passed a provision requested by the governor increasing penalties for possession or manufacture of methamphetamine in the presence of a child.

The new initiative also would require about $1 million.

GBI Director Vernon Keenan said doubling the Meth Force would give the agency greater ability to go after imported methamphetamine.

"Progress has been made in reducing the number of meth labs in our state,'' he said. "However, Georgia is a major distribution point for meth smuggled from Mexico. ... These additional agents will partner with federal law enforcement in metro Atlanta to combat this tremendous problem.''