Let’s invest more in fighting meth

With so much crime in the county driven by the drug, a shift in focus could make us safer

letters@thetribunenews.comAugust 14, 2013 

Steven Celaya, shown in a family photo, faces up to 10 years in prison for two robbery charges.


In the case of bank robberies, art does not imitate life. Hollywood churns out dramatic tales of meticulously planned, multimillion-dollar bank heists when, according to The Tribune’s Sunday story on the recent spate of local bank robberies, the average take is less than $1,000.

“It’s not a smart crime,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told Tribune reporter Julia Hickey.

Exactly. Consider the case of 32-year-old Steven Daniel Celaya, an accused bank robber Hickey interviewed at the County Jail. He admitted that he committed two spur-of-the-moment bank robberies this year, one in Atascadero and the other in San Luis Obispo. The first crime netted just $1,200, most of which Celaya lost under abridge as he was pulling out his wallet to buy drugs.

Following the second robbery, Celaya was so wracked by guilt and worry that he wound up turning himself in to authorities.

By Celaya’s account, methamphetamine contributed greatly to his downfall. We don’t doubt it.

Meth has played a role in many serious crimes in our county, some far, far more horrific than the bank robberies that Celaya admitted committing.

While his story is not the worst example, it confirms how critical it is for law enforcement to continue to crack down on the manufacture and sale of this insidious drug, and how important it is to keep the dangers of meth in the public consciousness.

We also must continue to evaluate where we’re putting our resources. Does it make sense to invest substantial time and money to investigate and prosecute those who, say, sell medical marijuana, when we could use those resources against meth and other more dangerous drugs?

And instead of investing more and more on incarceration, should we be providing detox centers and other assistance to help addicts recover before they commit serious crimes?

Granted, such efforts won’t halt bank robberies. But they just might keep drug users like Steven Celaya from spiraling out of control — and that, in turn, will keep us all safer.

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