March 1, 2012

Meth Lab Busts Up Statewide Despite Local Decline

Despite the fact there were no methamphetamine lab seizures in Scotland County last year, the numbers were on the increase statewide. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports that across Missouri methamphetamine laboratory incident seizures totaled 2,096 during 2011, an increase of more than six percent from 2010.

Local law enforcement officers assisted the Highway Patrol and Clark County officers in apprehending an Indiana man and his Iowa accomplice following a high-speed chase and manhunt in Clark County, which spilled over into Scotland County on May 19, 2011. Both men were charged with attempt to manufacture meth after a mobile lab was discovered in their vehicle.

That was the lone meth lab seizure involving Scotland County law enforcement officers. That doesn't mean there is no manufacturing of the illegal drug being done in the county. Are fewer people trying to make the illegal drug?

"Not at all," said Memphis Police Chief Bill Holland. "They are just coming up with better ways of hiding it."

One of the biggest changes has been with the transition into smaller, mobile labs.

"A lot of makers have switched to the 'shake-n-bake' method," Holland explained. "It doesn't make nearly as much meth at one time, but it is a lot smaller and far easier to hide or be made in a moving vehicle."

All that's left for local law enforcement officers are dumpsites, often roadside or along bridges and overpasses. The meth lab residue is usually tossed from passing vehicles. Not only do these trash piles offer evidence for investigators they also serve as proof that manufacturing of the drug has not halted.

According to Scotland County Sheriff Wayne Winn, his office discovered six meth-related dump sites in 2011.

"A few of those spots contained quite a lot of material, indicating repeated dumps being made at the sites," Winn stated. "

Missouri saw a drop in the number of meth lab seizures in 2006, after anti-meth lab legislation was enacted. However, from 2007 to 2011, the number of meth lab incidents in Missouri has increased steadily. This rise can be attributed in part to meth manufacturers circumventing laws that restrict the legal limit purchase of pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is the key ingredient used to make meth. It is also the only ingredient that cannot be substituted in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

In 2007 there were 1,285 meth lab seizures in Missouri. The following year the number increased to 1,487 followed by an increase to 1,774 in 2009. The next two years, those numbers increased to 1,960 followed by this year's total of 2,096.

Methamphetamine laboratory incident seizures are classified into three

categories: operational/nonoperational labs, chemical/glassware/equipment seizures, and lab dump sites. All law enforcement agencies in the state are required to report the seizure of methamphetamine laboratories to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The Patrol then enters Missouri's seizures into the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System, which is maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration at the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) in El Paso, Texas.

Missouri also continues to provide training to certify law enforcement officers to safely respond, investigate, and clean up meth labs. The 40-hour certification course, entitled "Hazardous Waste & Emergency Response for Meth Labs", is cosponsored by the Patrol and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Since the inception of this training, 37 classes have been sponsored and over 1,000 persons have been certified.

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