October 28, 2009 (San Diego's East County)--Operation Tip the Scale was a six month multi-jurisdictional effort in East County that sought to increase public contact with law enforcement and to provide information about how to get help with drug problems. In San Diego County, methamphetamine continues to be the drug of choice for many adults, although this operation focused on all illicit substances. The folllowing report from San Diego County Sheriff's Office offers some revealing insights into one way to reduce law enforcement costs, cut crime and get help for drug users:
The idea was simple. Could cities and the unincorporated areas in East County share law enforcement resources to create a large and visible presence against illicit drugs? Could treatment services be part of the team and talk to residents about how they could get help? And most importantly, could we do this without any overtime, especially as all participating agencies have experienced budget cuts?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob agrees. “Operation Tip the Scale showed that East County knows how to
cooperate for the common good. I am very pleased that these teams could get the word out about meth in such a cost-effective way.” Jacob is the founder of the Methamphetamine Strike Force, a multi-disciplinary group that has pursued a balance of prevention, law enforcement and treatment approaches to reduce meth problems in the region since 1996.
“We’re convinced that this kind of operation leverages all our interests for the public benefit,” said Sheriff Bill Gore. “We are interested in replicating this project in other parts of San Diego County.”
“The partnerships were amazing,” said Captain Patricia Duke of the Santee Sheriff Station. We had
every law enforcement agency in the East County involved, including Parole, Probation, Trolley
Enforcement and Animal Control. We also had the social service side with Child Welfare and Drug
The project operated over six months, with a lead team in the communities of Santee, El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove.
The operations were scheduled from March through September over one or two days. Law enforcement agencies contacted persons on probation and parole, as well as general contact with the public on the streets and trolleys. “Sometimes a probationer was under the influence, and brought in and booked,” said Duke. “In these cases they had a chance to have a private conversation with a treatment professional to talk through how they could get help.” At least one person entered treatment from these contacts.
“We also gave resource packets to family members with brochures and hotline numbers,” said Sgt. Chris May of the Santee station. The Meth Hotline (1-877-No-2-Meth) is a toll-free number for anonymous meth crime tips or to secure referrals to treatment programs.
Almost 17,000 contacts with the public provided information on substance abuse and drug treatment
resources to families and the community to encourage drug treatment and recovery, rather than just
tolerating dug using behavior. The operation resulted in 209 arrests, 416 contacts and 59 treatment
conversations. In addition, on the trolley, 16,828 contacts were made and 366 citations were issued.
“Fundamentally, addiction is why meth and other drugs are fuel for crime – and why drug use plays a
significant role in so many crimes throughout San Diego County,” said Jacob. “The public needs to know that murder, assaults domestic violence, and other crimes are fueled by meth. We can’t stand by and watch this happen. Make that call to report meth crimes.”
“Treatment can seem mysterious, and these conversations to explain what it is and how to get in are
important,” said Susan Bower, Deputy Director for the County Alcohol and Drug Services. “We know that the earlier drug users enter a recovery program, the better their chances of success.” Studies show that every dollar spent on treatment saves $7 in criminal justice system costs, he added.