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US Cracks Down on Dangerous Drug Methamphetamine

Federal, state and local police around the United States arrested more than 400 people over the past week in the first nationally coordinated operation aimed at cracking down on dealers of the dangerous drug methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine, also known by its street names of ice, crystal and speed, is a growing drug menace that has hit rural areas as well as inner cities all across the country.

The government estimates about 12 million people have tried methamphetamine, or meth for short, which comes in the form of a crystal-like powder or small, rock-like chunks.

Federal law enforcement officials announced the results of their nationwide crackdown, known as Operation Wildfire, at a Washington news conference.

"We arrested and put out of business 427 meth [methamphetamine] cooks, dealers and transporters in 200 cities across this nation and specifically targeted among them the people who were cooking [preparing] meth and those who were repeat offenders, removing 120 of them from our neighborhoods," said Karen Tandy, who heads the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The operation involved federal, state and local police officers and resulted in the seizure of more than 200 pounds of the drug at 56 labs where methamphetamine was being processed.

Methamphetamine use has rapidly spread in part because most of the ingredients necessary to cook, or prepare, the drug are contained in cold medicines that are readily available in local grocery stores and pharmacies. More than a dozen states have passed laws forcing stores to take those medications off of store shelves.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says a key part of the methamphetamine crackdown involves improving cooperation with neighboring Mexico in stemming the tide of drugs across the southern border.

"We are making more arrests. There are more prosecutions," he said. "But our enforcement success depends on our local, state and international friends and allies."

Law enforcement officials say they have dismantled more than 50,000 secret meth labs since 2001. Attorney General Gonzales recently said that methamphetamine is now a greater danger to children than marijuana.