SANTA MARIA, Calif. - It's still a scourge on the Central Coast and a menace just about everywhere else.
Methamphetamine use, abuse and sales remain a major drain on local law enforcement and for our court system.
The arrest of several people in a quiet Santa Maria neighborhood over this past weekend is drawing attention to the problem of meth-houses in our communities.
Santa Maria Police raided this home in the Sunrise area of the city over the weekend and arrested several people on various drug related charges involving the possession and sale of methamphetamine, including the owner of the house.
Central Coast News spoke with a woman who came to the front door who was inside the house Saturday afternoon and described what she called an unnecessary display of police force during the raid.
"We knew they had to be police, who shows up at your front door with guns pulled, its not a natural thing", the woman said, "I thought it was Probation, the front door was wide open, if they would have just come and talk to us we have just let them in, nobody was going to run you can't even jump our fence."
Central Coast News spoke with several neighbors, many of whom told us off camera they would see cars, motorcycles and people coming and going from the home at all hours of the day and night.
"This is a great neighborhood, we built this house, been here 26 years", said homeowner Tim Domingues, "there are some renters, but they've all been good neighbors so far."
"The problem with meth hasn't gone away, it's worse than ever I would suggest to you", says Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rogelio Flores is on the bench in Santa Maria and has presided over Drug Court.
"I've talked to some business people in Santa Maria and they say they cannot get people to pass a drug test, that's pretty tough", Judge Flores says, "so they test for drugs at the front end, people know they are testing but they can't stop using."
Judge Flores is a strong advocate for drug treatment especially when it comes to methamphetamine addiction.
"Absolutely, that's the only thing that does work", Judge Flores says, "you can put a meth addict in custody for a long period of time, they're going to come out and they are still going to be addicted to meth, and the addiction never goes away."
"What we do when we treat people is learning how to deal with the addiction", Judge Flores says, "how to deal with the triggers that get people to use."
Judge Flores says he's not surprised to see homeowners work with law enforcement to take back their neighborhoods from the drug scourge.
"It affects every strata of society, it affects property values in Santa Maria, it affects how much people are willing to pay for homes in Santa Maria", Judge Flores says, "I would suggest meth abuse has affected property values by 20 percent, can you imagine how many hundreds of millions of dollars we're talking about in a community like this?"
"So what's it worth to the community to work with courts, and law enforcement and first responders and churches and schools to stand up and say, you know that's enough", Judge Flores says, "Santa Maria is an All-America city unfortunately we have some all-American problems and one of those is methamphetamine abuse."