November 21st, 2008 by Cpl Edward Koczan
With Methamphetamine use on the rise in the area, after a long time of plaguing Indiana and the nation, the dangers of Meth use needs to be recognized. This is the first in a series of educational information we will share with you about Meth use.
Many people may be living next door to a meth lab and not know it.
With the newest methods of meth production scaling back from larger operations like the ones pictured here, into smaller 'personal use' quantity type of lab operations, detection of labs is made more difficult.
Newest cooking methods, often referrred to as "one pot" methods can be produced in containers as small as a two liter bottle, and can even be easily transported in backpacks or small coolers.
As such, a meth lab discovery often leaves many neighbors and local residents commenting they had no idea about this so close to their homes. This is typical of many meth lab discoveries.
The reason for this is simple. Methamphetamine is relatively easy to produce with minimal investment. Major scale manufacturing operations are rare in the area. You may be surprised to learn that many meth lab operations are in fact, on a small scale.
Some of the main reasons for this are due to strict Indiana laws on Ephedrine sales and tracking, the realtive ease of manufacture, and the highly addictive nature of this drug, and its cost on the street entices many users to attempt to make their own quantities for use, and on a smaller, secondary level, sale.
As a result Meth labs turn up in houses, barns, apartments, trailers, campers, cabins and motel rooms – even the backs of pickups. The equipment for a meth lab can be as small as to fit in a duffel bag, a cardboard box or the trunk of a car. Cooking in small containers, such as used two liter bottles, are on the rise as the preferred method of manufacture, thanks in part to restrictive sales of Ephedrine.
Here are some of the things to watch for:
Many people may be living next door to a meth lab and not know it. Some of the signs that there is a meth lab in operation are obvious and easy to spot.
In fact, you may have noticed them and not realized it. Methamphetamine is, in fact, a very simple drug to produce. A user can go to retail stores and easily purchase the vast majority of the ingredients necessary to manufacture the drug. Items such as rock salt, battery acid, red phosphorous road flares, pool acid, and iodine crystals can be utilized to substitute for some of the necessary chemicals.
Precursor chemicals such as pseudoephedrine can be extracted from common, over-the-counter cold medications. A clandestine lab operator can utilize relatively common items such as mason jars, coffee filters, hot plates, pressure cookers, pillowcases, plastic tubing, gas cans, etc., to substitute for sophisticated laboratory equipment.
Unlike Fentanyl, LSD, or other types of dangerous drugs, it does not take a college-educated chemist to produce methamphetamine. In fact, less than 10 percent of those suspects arrested for the manufacture of methamphetamine are trained chemists, which may be one reason we see so many fires, explosions, and injuries involving clandestine labs.
- Unusual strong odors (like cat urine, ether, ammonia, acetone or other chemicals).
- Residences with windows blacked out.
- Renters who pay their landlords in cash (most drug dealers deal exclusively in cash).
- Large amounts of traffic - people coming and going at unusual hours. There may be little traffic during the day and large amounts at night.
- Excessive trash, including large quantities of: antifreeze containers, lantern fuel cans, red chemically stained coffee filters, drain cleaner containers and duct tape.
- Unusual amounts of clear glass containers being brought into the home.
- Windows blacked out or covered by aluminum foil, plywood, sheets, blankets, etc.
- Secretive / protective area surrounding the residence (like video cameras, alarm systems, guard dogs, reinforced doors, electrified fencing).
- Persons exiting the structure to smoke
- Little traffic during the day, but high traffic at late hours; including different vehicles arriving and staying for short periods of time.
- Little or no mail, furniture, visible trash and no newspaper delivery.
- Unusual quantities of clear glass containers being brought into the home.
Obviously the presence of any of these items is not an automatic indicator of the presence of a meth lab. However, combinations of these items or large quantities of these items may be a sign of a methamphetamine laboratory.
METHAMPHETAMINE LABS ARE VERY DANGEROUS!!!
If you encounter a Meth lab, contact law enforcement and stay away! The threats posed by clandestine labs are not limited to fire, explosion, poison gas, drug abuse, and booby traps; the chemical contamination of the hazardous waste contained in these labs also poses a serious danger to our nation's environment.
Each pound of methamphetamine generated in a clandestine lab can result in as much as five pounds of toxic waste, which clandestine lab operators routinely dump into our nation's streams, rivers, and sewage systems to cover up the evidence of their illegal operations.
In addition, clan lab operators routinely show a blatant disregard for the health and safety of others as evidenced by the number of children who have been present at clan lab sites.
Because of the possibility of explosions and direct contact with toxic fumes and hazardous chemicals, law enforcement officers who raid clandestine drug labs are now required to take special hazardous materials (HAZMAT) handling training. Locally, the Indiana State Police has a specially trained Meth Lab cleanup team who will assist with safe and proper handling of the materials where labs are uncovered.
The highly toxic and flammable chemicals involved make these rudimentary laboratories ticking time-bombs that require specialized training to dismantle and clean. The size of lab does not matter when it comes to the danger level involved in a clandestine laboratory raid.
The smaller labs are usually more dangerous than the larger operations because the cooks are generally less experienced chemists who often have little regard for the safety issues that arise when dealing with explosive and poisonous chemicals. However, the size of a clandestine laboratory can be a significant factor in the costs associated with the hazardous waste cleanup.
Larger production laboratories usually have larger quantities of toxic chemicals, and therefore more significant hazardous waste disposal charges. Many producers of methamphetamine also possess large numbers of firearms, adding to the dangerous situation for residents and for police.
Landlords and neighbors suspecting Meth lab activity should pay attention and look for the presence of the following items, which could indicate the existence of a meth lab:
Cold Packs, or residue/used cold pack wrappers in quantity
Camp Stove Fuel/Coleman Fuel
Anhydrous Ammonia (commonly found in used propane tanks, with altered valves or tubes)
Lye (Red Devil Lye)
Battery Acid/Sulfuric Acid
If you suspect a Meth Lab may be present, or if you find the above listed "precursor" items at a residence, do NOT confront the lab residence/area.
South Bend Police MSOS Drug Activity Hotline at 235-9406,
Crime Stoppers, at 288-STOP,
Indiana State Police Methamphetamine Hotline at 1-800-453-4756
or if you see manufacture in progress, contact 911.