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Waste Watch: Meth Registry Missing People, Records Show -- Stacy Case

Updated: Wednesday, May 14 2014, 11:43 PM CDT
Waste Watch: Meth Registry Makeover

Stacy Case
Smith County

   Tennessee's Meth Offender Registry is supposed to have the names of everyone who's guilty of making meth, doing meth or selling meth.
 Problem is, when you sign on, you'll actually only see a fraction of those who should be on this list.
   Tennessee is number 2  in the country when it comes to  making meth.
     With a problem that big, the list of names on Tennessee's meth offender registry seems  pretty small. 
  Fox 17 talked with a Smith County woman who wants her identity concealed for safety because she was neighbors with convicted meth maker Garry Bennett. "I thought it was odd they pulled a van behind the house, but there was a trampoline on the other side of that van. A bunch of children,  a bunch of neighborhood kids played on including mine. If that would have exploded what would have happened?"
   Nothing exploded here, but it did at Bennett's next stop-- the Travel Inn in Lebanon where police say his meth lab blew up.   
  After Bennett's conviction April 3rd, Fox 17 kept checking the registry for his name.  It took more than a month for his name to be added in Wilson County, a county that only started adding names to the meth registry in 2010. That's five years after it was created. 
    Special Agent Tommy Farmer with the TBI Meth Task Force says he's  definitely someone who should be on the meth offender registry system." 
    I searched the registry and found in Smith County where Bennet's accused of first making meth.  The clerk here only added 6 names to the meth registry in 8 years.   Yet, the county had 12  meth convictions just last year alone.
  So, we went to the Smith County Court Clerk, to find out why so many names are missing?
    Stacy Case asks clerk Angie Hunter, "I think a lot of people are wondering why there are only 6 names after all these years that the system has been in place?"
Hunter answers, "That I don't have control over. We have a TBI interface and everything we do in the system goes into the interface."
    In her defense, Angie Hunter is new in this position only on the job 6 months,  but that interface or some aspect of the county reporting system is not working according to  Senator Mae Beavers, a Republican from Mount Juliet, "It has not worked because we're not getting the proper reporting from the counties."
    Smith County's not alone.  A spot check of other counties shows Rutherford is behind too on adding names. There are just 6 on the registry from here.. a county that had 30 meth convictions in 2013.  Cheatham County has just four names on the registry, but had more meth convictions than that, 7,  in one year.  
    Senator Beavers says we need a good reporting from the county clerks and if they're not doing their job, we need to find out why.   She is the lawmaker who put  Tennessee on a path to blaze trails in the world of meth registries.  Her legislation made us the very first state to start one.  
    It cost taxpayers $10 grand to set it up in 2005 and $5 thousand every year for the TBI to maintain it. The grand total so far?  About $50 thousand dollars.
    Rep. Tony Shipley a Republican from Kingsport says, "If they continue along that pathway, the state could actually come out and take a more blunt trauma approach and say either do this or we're withholding state funding for something to get their attention.  We demand that these people cooperate with us."
   However, this registry isn't just a name and shame strategy.  You see pharmacists like Andrew Finney of Perkins Drugs and Gifts in Gallatin,  also use these names in a system called NPLEx.  That stands for National Precursor Log Exchange to stop the sale of pseudoephredrine,  a main ingredient in some cold medicines and in meth.  "It gives them basically a yes or a no as to whether they can sell the product."
  While Finney says the registry has stopped thousands of sales.  Hundreds of missing names give him an incomplete picture. He explains, "It would basically make the data we get invalid and we aren't able to make a professional judgment." 
  The TBI's Farmer says even if county clerks got better at reporting meth convictions to the registry, there are still break downs at the pharmacy level.
"Did they get all of the information?  Did they run it? Did they write it? Did they overwrite it?  There's a lot of moving parts here."
  Moving parts that keep meth makers like Garry Bennett on the move.
    Tennessee is doing better than in recent years, now adding about 108 new names to the registry a month.

Waste Watch: Meth Registry Missing People, Records Show -- Stacy Case


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