Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

TOP STORY >> Lab seizures decline in 2005

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Detectives with the White County Sheriff’s Department say they see changing trends in the production of methamphetamine, but not necessarily a reduction in use.

The highly addictive, illegal drug was not produced as much in White County last year as in years past. It was replaced with “ice,” a purer form of the drug, brought in from Mexico and California by Hispanics, they say.

But already since the first of the year, sheriff’s deputies have made half as many meth-lab busts as they did in all of 2005, an indication that production is on the rise in the county again but not on the scale that it was before, the detectives say. Instead of cooking to sell, drug users appear to be cooking at home for their own use.

And that, they say, could cause even more problems, since making the drug is a dangerous activity even for experienced cooks.
The number of meth-lab busts was down in the county from 41 in 2004 to nine in 2005, according to statistics released this month.
Capt. John Slater and Lt. Greg Williams attribute the decline to a new state law that took over-the-counter cold medicines used in the manufacture of methamphetamine off the shelves of grocery and discount stores.

Now customers have to sign at a pharmacy desk for the medicine.

Meth cooks and dealers are forced to drive from pharmacy to pharmacy to buy their two-box limits.
Some clerks and pharmacists have become wary of carloads of out-of-towners in search of cold and allergy medicine and have started refusing service or even alerting law enforcement agencies, said Slater, spokesman for the sheriff’s department.
But some sell the limit to anyone with the required picture ID.

Fred’s Pharmacy in Beebe was broken into twice in 2005 and both times the thieves cleaned out the stores supply of the former over-the-counter medicine.

White County Sheriff Pat Garrett admits that his department has not been as successful as he would like in apprehending the Hispanic drug dealers who are bringing ice to the county.

“We’re catching some but not as many as we’d like,” the sheriff said.

But Williams said informants tell him that while ice is still a problem some dealers are becoming fearful of being arrested.
So he believes small home meth labs will make up for any decline in the imported drug.

Garrett says county residents need to know what to look for if they suspect a neighbor or family member is cooking meth for sale or use. Pay attention to any unusual odors such as ammonia or ether, he said. A large number of matches also is significant especially if the strikers are missing, because that is the part used in meth production.

“There will be plenty of matches, but there won’t be a striker plate on the back of any of them,” he said.

Also take note of Red Devil lye in large quantities, Coleman camping fuel and plastic hose, he said, adding none of the items, including the cold pills, are illegal, but together they are a meth lab.