Meth in Michiana: "Senter" of the Storm - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Meth in Michiana: "Senter" of the Storm


When Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter was seeking office in 2007, he made fighting meth a key part of his campaign.  Despite years of work and publicity, meth continues to destroy Michiana families.  Those families are the reason Mayor Senter is now trying to re-focus the battle.

He's getting a lot of help, and he'll need it.

"There's a lot going on with this," Mayor Senter tells us as he shows us the city's new River Park Square. The square is really starting to take shape.  The mayor is also working to maintain and grow the city's downtown, but drive just a few blocks from his office and you'll see the other problem he's tackling: meth.

"It's a very small group.  They don't want to talk about it," the mayor says.  Marshall County recently ranked 9th in the state for the most labs busted.  He takes us to an area in his city to illustrate the issue.  Meth making chemicals were found in homes right across the street from each other.

"That's what's dangerous.  That's what's explosive.  That's what's tearing these families apart," Senter says. He could put his head in the sand.  "Yeah, but I'm not going to.  That's not me.  That's not my personality," he says.  Instead he's helping to lead the charge.

"We have to stop the labs," he says.  At a community meeting where he tells the crowd about the motivation behind his passion, about the nearly three decades he spent with the ISP,  twenty-one of them as a detective including six on the meth lab team.  One bust in particular left a lasting impression.  "I had tears in my eyes, I broke down, and I cried," he says.  "I cried for those children who could not take a bath in their bathtub because that's where the meth lab was."

That was 2006.  "I took that next step and I made that part of my 2007 campaign as mayor," Senter says.  He won.  "I brought this forward and I knew if we were going to do this it was going to be a double edged sword, because the more enforcement we have, the higher the numbers are going to be."

He's not doing this alone.  There are community activists, two task forces, former addicts and there's help from the courts  "It is absolutely destroying families and communities and neighborhoods,"  says Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman.  If you're a meth cook, Chipman is the probably the last guy you want to see.  Plea deals start at ten years behind bars for accused cooks.  "It's my community," he says.  "I really feel this is, for our generation, one of the challenges we have."

It's a challenge that won't be solved overnight.  Mayor Senter gets that.  He's seen the problem spike, decrease and then pick up again.  He could close the door of his office and pretend the problem doesn't exist, but he says the stakes are simply too high.  "Somebody asked about heroin.  They're not making heroin in my neighbor's house.  That heroin is not going to blow up in my neighbor's basement and kill that neighbor's child. That's the difference in my opinion."

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