Special Report: ‘Operation Tip the Scale’ sends probation violators to rehab instead of jail

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — San Diego County’s Methamphetamine Strike Force, San Diego Sheriff Department, Escondido Police Department, San Diego County Probation Department, San Diego County Behavioral Health Services, Occupational Health Services and McAllister Institute combined forces Tuesday for the drug treatment outreach and enforcement effort known as Operation Tip the Scale. 

Teams from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Escondido Police, San Diego County Probation, and North County Transit District conducted saturation patrols and probation compliance checks in known hotspots for drug-related crime.

The one-day operation, run in the City of San Marcos and the western end of Escondido — was the 21st Tip the Scale Operation conducted in the past eight years.

“Tip the Scale gives eligible drug offenders, addicted, chronic law breakers, a chance to break the cycle,” said Capt. Michael McClain of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. 

Related Link: New report shows record number of San Diegans are dying from methamphetamine use

“Many of the users are the ones breaking into our homes, doing petty street crimes to support their addictions. This operation gives them the chance to get help through treatment, which ultimately makes our communities safer. We know it’s hard to break the cycle, but we can’t arrest our way out of the problem.”

The goal of Tip the Scale is to steer drug offenders toward drug treatment resources and to make sure offenders on probation are in compliance.  As always, drug treatment counselors were on hand during Tip the Scale, talking with offenders about their drug problems and how they might get their lives back on track in terms of drug treatment and counseling.

“At its heart, the intent of Tip the Scale has always been to link offenders more closely with other important community resources – including drug treatment, recovery programs and resources for independent living,” said Division Chief Jason Druxman of the San Diego County Probation Department.  

"Ultimately our goal is to save lives and keep families and neighborhoods safe," Captain McClain said. "By offering treatment options, we can clear a path to recovery for some offenders. Again, the goal is to break the cycle of addiction and crime. This operation was unique in that one in five arrestees was driven straight to treatment programs."

After Tip the Scale Operations, the Meth Strike Force Hotline often sees a 50-percent jump in calls from residents who are either reporting crime or seeking drug treatment.

Tuesday’s operation resulted in 5 total arrests, including 3-felony arrests, 2-misdemeanor arrests, 3-warrants cleared, 4-treatment conversations and 1 treatment placement.

In addition, social workers from the Drug Endangered Children (DEC) group of Child Welfare Services were on scene as a resource to law enforcement teams.  

At the command post, drug counselors spoke to offenders about their drug problems, and the impact addiction has on their lives and ways each can get help and stay clean. Offenders were assessed to determine eligibility for immediate drug treatment, if so, officers transported these offenders directly from the command post to a local treatment facility.  Police and health officials say drug dependence and addiction are significant factors in crime and recidivism. 

One-in-four inmates in local jails across the country admit to committing their crimes to obtain money for drugs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. With this in mind, Tip the Scale is intended to identify and serve individuals in need of treatment, as well as families and communities who are adversely affected by drug-related crimes.

Persistent problems

  • Deaths linked to meth are at a record high in San Diego County. From 2008 to 2014, the number of people in the region who died due to meth increased by 43 percent – from 217 in 2012 to 311 in 2015, according to the most recent report from the County’s Medical Examiner.  
  • In 2016, 49-percent of adult arrestees — arrested for any charge — tested positive for methamphetamine, an all-time high since SANDAG began tracking this data more than two decades ago.

Since 2009, Tip the Scale has led to more than 28,000 law enforcement contacts, 630 arrests, 359 treatment conversations. Also, at every operation Information packets were given to individuals and family members in need of assistance. 

Those numbers are significant because studies show that taxpayers save more than $7 in criminal justice costs and $4 in healthcare costs for every $1 invested in treatment resources, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

Residents throughout the county are urged to report meth-related crimes or seek information about treatment options by calling 1-877-NO-2-METH (1-877-662-6384) or by going online to www.no2meth.org.

Categories: Local San Diego News