Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TOP STORY > >Meth labs popping up again

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

For the past three years, the difficulty of obtaining pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in methamphetamine, together with the influx of inexpensive ice from Mexico had all but shut down local meth labs.

But in recent months, the price of ice has gone up while the quality has gone down and meth cooks and dealers in northern White County are at it again.

In 2006, 10 meth labs were seized in White County. In 2007, that number had more than doubled to 26. But in the first two months of 2008, deputies have already seized 13 labs, half the number seized in all of 2007.

When the state mandated that Sudafed and all other allergy and cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine be kept behind pharmacy counters and sold only in limitedquantities to individuals with proper identification, the production of meth declined.
But Mexican ice quickly filled the void. Furthermore, it costs less and it was of better quality than the meth produced locally, said Chief Deputy Jeremy Clark with the White County Sheriff’s Department.

Users easily became addicted to the ice, which sold for as little as $1,000 an ounce compared to $2,800 for meth, Clark said, and then the price climbed to $1,500 an ounce while the quality declined.

Illegal drugs are a business, and Clark said the “good businessmen” who deal in meth have decided that it is once more profitable to make what they sell.

Before ice went up in price and down in quality, it wasn’t worth the inconvenience or the risk to buy enough pseudoephedrine for a batch of meth.

Now it is, Clark said.

Most of the activity is in the hilly, rural part of the county, he said. But Tuesday morning, deputies were busting a dealer in Searcy.

Clark said the recent arrests are the result of good police work. But residents who notice suspicious activity are encouraged to call the sheriff’s department.

“If their neighbors have a lot of company, especially at night, and they don’t stay more than 15 minutes, they are probably dealing,” Clark said. “We do ask that people (who call with tips) be very patient, though. This guy we’re arresting this morning, I worked on him in 2005.”