Thursday, July 13, 2006 | 7:22 a.m.
Beginning in 2003 area juvenile authorities began noticing a sharp increase in the number of children needing placement in shelters or foster homes. By the spring of 2005 county social workers, Metro Police officers and juvenile judges were agreeing on the root cause - use of methamphetamine here was growing rapidly, causing parents to become so dysfunctional they could no longer properly care for their children.
Attention to this problem began increasing after that. A local meth symposium was organized and government officials traveled to seminars to gain a better perspective on the problem. Police officers and politicians began speaking out and local media outlets generated numerous stories.
Tuesday of this week brought more meth news. The New York Times reported about a trend in Nevada and other Western states in which people are more and more turning to identity theft to support their meth addictions.
Also Tuesday, law enforcement authorities attending a Southern Nevada crime summit concluded that methamphetamine constitutes the biggest problem here, given all of the spin-off crimes that it motivates.
And at a meeting of the state Prison Board on Tuesday, Nevada's exploding prison population was largely blamed on the rising use of meth. Glen Whorton, director of the state Department of Corrections, outlined a six-year, $200 million plan to build new prisons and expand older ones.
More prison beds are one answer to the meth crisis, and we support Whorton's building plan. We hope, though, that the plan takes into consideration that addictions are causing much of the upsurge in crime. The newer facilities should place a larger emphasis than now exists on treatment and counseling. Given the scope of the problem, strong rehabilitation resources, in and out of prisons, should be an important part of any effort to decrease the problems associated with meth.