Workshop helps police keep up with meth (Pt 2 of 3)

Published 10:50 pm Thursday, November 6, 2008

Throughout the state and Southeast region, meth literally exploded on the scene as Alabama’s No. 1 drug threat, spreading like an epidemic into the state’s rural areas

That was until a new law passed last year made it more difficult for people to buy the main ingredients, which brought the number of meth cases significantly down. Now, a new way to manufacture meth has law enforcement agencies worried a wave of smaller, harder to spot meth labs is inevitably headed our way.

“We have fared very well so far,” said Linden police chief Scott McClure. His department recently hosted a two-day workshop held by the Tuscaloosa Police Department about methamphetamine — how it is made, what to look for, types of ingredients and what the kinds of labs that produce the deadly drug.

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A new, simpler way to produce the highly addictive drug has emerged on the scene and making it easier for users to once again make the drug at home.

The new recipe, a “one-pot” cooking method that takes fewer ingredients, has been showing up in labs busted in counties surrounding Marengo County. It is highly addictive, cheap and easily made in makeshift labs.

“We have not had a meth lab busted in Linden so far — and none that I know of in the county,” said McClure. “Marengo County has been able to keep it out so far, but our day is coming. Odds are we will see it sometime in the near future. It is so prevalent in the surrounding counties.”

The new “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake” recipe has the potential to make meth as strong a problem as crack cocaine is in Marengo County today, said McClure.

“It’s dangerous,” he said. “The lab is so small, it can be stored in a backpack or bag, and it cuts the time it takes to make meth in half.”

Meth is so addictive only about 3 percent of the people who get hooked on the drug ever get clean from it, McClure said.

“Ninety-seven percent of those who use meth for the first time end up addicted,” he said. “Many die from it.”

The workshop was held Oct. 28 and 29 at the Linden School Board meeting room and was attended by representatives of several area law enforcement agencies. It was funded by the state.

“It was very comprehensive and helped us to be better alert to the signs of meth use and labs,” said McClure.

Traditionally, meth labs are in rural areas where they won’t attract as much attention. The labs are known to explode on occasion and kill others and spread toxic fumes for miles.

Common places for meth labs are abandoned poultry houses, metal storage sheds, tobacco barns, mobile homes and abandoned houses. The labs can also be traveling labs, set up in campers, large trucks or even cars. Of course, with the “one-pot” labs rising in popularity they need smaller spaces to set up, making it harder to spot.

There are signs to look for if you suspect someone may be running a meth lab close to your own home. One sign is the horrible odor of rotten eggs, ammonia or cat urine.

“Cooking meth produces a terrible odor,” said McClure. “If you smell funny odors like this, it does not hurt to get your local law enforcement agency to check it out. Where there is smoke, there probably is fire.”

Windows that are always blackened, without curtains that occasionally open and shut could be another sign of a meth lab. The windows are kept where no one can look in and see something that shouldn’t be seen.

In some of the older type of labs, things that are often stapled are lots of glass containers, bottles with hoses, batteries or propane tanks. Often, the tanks are corroded and may have tape wrapped around the valves.

If you suspect someone is running a meth lab near you call the authorities and let them investigate.

Labs can be extremely dangerous and present a hazardous material danger.

“I hope we never see the problems other counties have experienced, but I do believe it’s coming,” said McClure. “All of the law enforcement agencies in Marengo County have worked hard to make sure it’s not a problem here. Other rural counties in the state, including our immediate neighbors, have had labs busted all the time.”

McClure credits the county’s success in keeping labs out of the county to an aggressive sheriff’s department and diligent effort from the other agencies in Marengo County.

“Our district attorney and judge takes drug offenses extremely seriously,” said McClure. “If you get caught with drugs in Marengo County, you will be prosecuted and you will serve time. They’re tough here.”