More meth labs showing up in cities, suburbs

Methamphetamine lab seizures are on the rise in the nation's cities and suburbs, raising new concerns about a lethal drug that has long been the scourge of rural America.
Associated Press
Dec 27, 2012

 

Data and interviews from an investigation by The Associated Press found growing numbers of meth lab seizures in cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., Nashville, Tenn., and Evansville, Ind. Authorities are also seeing evidence that inner-city gangs are becoming involved in meth production and distribution.

"No question about it — there are more labs in the urban areas," said Tom Farmer, coordinator of the Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force. "I'm seeing car fires from meth in urban areas now, more people getting burned."

The increase in labs is especially troubling because meth brought into the U.S. from Mexico also is becoming more pervasive in urban areas. The Associated Press reported in October that so-called Mexican "super labs" are upping production, making meth more pure and less expensive, and then using existing drug pipelines in big cities.

Data obtained by AP shows that homemade meth is on the rise in metropolitan areas, too.

— St. Louis County had just 30 lab seizures in 2009, but 83 through July 31, putting it on pace for 142 in 2012. The city of St. Louis had eight in 2009 and is on pace for 50 this year.

— Jackson County, Mo., (which includes Kansas City) had 21 seizures in 2009 and is on pace for 65 this year.

— Meth lab seizures have tripled in the Nashville area over the past two years. In one case in late 2011, a man and his girlfriend were accused of recruiting more than three dozen people, including some who were homeless, to visit multiple pharmacies and purchase the legal limit of cold pills containing pseudoephedrine, a key meth ingredient. The couple and 37 others were indicted.

— The Evansville, Ind., area has seen a more than 500 percent rise in meth seizures since 2010, with 82 in 2011.

Authorities cite numerous reasons for meth moving into cities, but chief among them is the rise in so-called "one-pot" or "shake-and-bake" meth.

In years past, meth was cooked in a makeshift lab. The strong ammonia-like smell carried over a wide area, so to avoid detection, meth had to be made in backwoods locations.

As laws limited the availability of pseudoephedrine, meth-makers adjusted with a faster process that creates smaller batches simply by combining ingredients — mixing cold pills with toxic substances such as battery acid or drain cleaner — in 2-liter soda bottles. Shake-and-bake meth can be made quickly with little odor in a home, apartment, hotel, even a car.

"Bad guys have figured it out," said Rusty Payne of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. "You don't have to be as clandestine — you don't have to be in rural country to lay low."

Niki Crawford, who heads the meth suppression team in Indiana, said that with shake-and-bake labs, "the odors are not as strong. And they're just so portable. We find them in backpacks and gym bags."

And inside stores: A woman was arrested inside a St. Louis County Wal-Mart earlier this year with a meth-filled soda bottle in her coat pocket.

Another reason for the rise in urban meth is a process known among law enforcement as "smurfing" —the abundance of pharmacies in cities attracts meth-makers from surrounding rural areas, who can bring in friends to help purchase pseudoephedrine pills.

"We know the fuel for domestic labs is pseudoephedrine," Farmer said. "The source for that is pharmacies and the majority of pharmacies are in urban areas."

Farmer also has seen an increase in meth activity involving inner-city Tennessee gangs, which tend to be better-organized than rural cookers when it comes to marketing and selling the drug. For the most part, the gang members work as smurfers, though Farmer worries they'll eventually become involved in the manufacture and distribution of the drug. Sometimes, gang members and meth-makers first connect while in prison.

"They see there's a market there to make money off of pseudoephedrine," Farmer said. "Pseudoephedrine has become as good as currency."

Missouri State Highway Patrol statistics are indicative of the growing urban concern: All four of the top meth counties in Missouri were in the metropolitan St. Louis area — Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Louis and Franklin.

Ed Begley, a St. Louis County meth detective, said the drug is attracting users from all socio-economic levels.

"Lower class all the way up to upper middle class," Begley said. "We've even had retired folks who have become addicted. It's a brutal drug."

 

Comments

KnuckleDragger

Get ready folks. When the heroin users figure out that meth is cheaper and provides a better high we are all in trouble. If you think we have a problem with violence in Ohio now, wait til meth takes hold. I lived out west where it seemed to be the drug of choice. Tweakers are bad news, as they are violent similar to what a person on PCP used to be.

wiredmama222

Yep....five years in AZ should US that. It was definitely the drug of choice for many out there.

These people go out of their minds. They don't have any respect for anyone or anything. The kill for pure sport. They rob you blind and if you are in their way, you die.

God protect us all from meth labs here.

Dr. Information

Ban meth labs.........

mikeylikesit

yeah boy;)

xdefiance's picture
xdefiance

Pot smokers formally gained the right to light up in Colorado on Monday as Governor John Hickenlooper signed into effect a controversial ballot measure legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use in what proponents hailed as a "historic day."

Hickenlooper's signature, largely a formality, made Colorado the second U.S. state after Washington to legalize recreational pot use, and put it on a possible collision course with the federal government - which calls marijuana an illegal drug.

"Voters were loud and clear on Election Day," Hickenlooper said in a statement released by his office. "We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64."

http://news.yahoo.com/marijuana-...

deertracker

Your point???

Centauri

Given a choice, people would rather use cannabis than meth which is a very dangerous drug. Statistics show that cannabis use is up while meth use is down. Alcohol is more dangerous than meth. The government doesn't want you to know that because too many law makers are drunks due to excessive use of alcohol.

http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs...
"The study placed heroin, crack and meth far above marijuana, both in terms of harm to self and harm to others. Cocaine and tobacco were also ranked as more harmful than marijuana. Alcohol was ranked most dangerous."

Centauri

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/...
"Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado pressed Leonhart on whether illegal drugs like methamphetamine and crack, as well as legal prescription drugs, caused greater harm to public health compared to marijuana. But within a three minute time-span, Leonhart dodged his questions eleven times."

A simpleton is in charge of the DEA.

beepx22

but... meth labs are illegal, we should ban them... again.

mrjsiah

Come on like people in norwalk and willard and some in huron are surprised by this.