Vice Squad
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Back in the ex-USSR

Two weeks ago, Vice Squad was in Kyiv. This week finds us in another post-Soviet Wonderland, Tbilisi, where we will be surveying the local vice scene for one month. But in our last hours back in Chicago, we came across this article on some inspired allocation of policing resources. It concerns MethCheck, wherein someone who exceeds the government's view of how much Sudafed you should be buying automatically has his or her name sent to the anti-drug constabulary. The article does its best to spin this as a wonderful law enforcement tool, as opposed to the ludicrous waste of time and money that it is. But it doesn't sound like MethCheck is really fixing that meth problem, especially if the opening anecdote is the best they could come up with:

LONDON, Ky. - Detective Brian Lewis returns to his desk after lunch, scanning e-mails he missed.

One catches his eye: It says a suspected member of a methamphetamine ring bought a box of Sudafed at 1:34 p.m. at a CVS pharmacy.

Minutes later, Lewis is in his truck, circling the parking lot, searching for the woman. Lewis did not find her that day, but the scenario illustrates the way law enforcement is increasingly relying on computerized tracking systems in their fight against meth, which is often brewed in makeshift labs.
Why are CVS and WalMart participating in these silly rituals?

It seems, incidentally, that former Soviet Georgia only made it to Vice Squad once before, in an inauspicious manner. Tbilisi is very pleasant, however.

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