Meth lab growth sparks concerns

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 19, 2000

Staff Writer

Methamphetamine lab busts are becoming routine for law enforcement officers.

Statistics from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency show 41 meth labs were seized in 1973, nationwide. And, in 1999, that number had significantly increased to 2,155 ­ 30 of which were in Alabama.

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In the past couple of months, several of clandestine lab seizures have taken place in Pike County, and law enforcement officers don’t expect the problem to go away anytime soon.

Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage said methamphetamine is a "trend" that’s been growing over the past 20 years.

"Eventually, we deal with what other cities do," Everage said of the problems in larger cities that finally make their way into more rural areas. "I think it’s something we’re going to see for a while."

The reason for that belief is because methamphetamine is "crude" and uses "simple ingredients that are readily available," Everage said.

"We’re not talking about some big, sophisticated lab," the chief said of the clandestine labs that can be found anywhere there’s a source of heat, such as a microwave.

That’s been proven by local seizures at motels in even in the middle of the woods.

Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas said the 12th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force ­ made up of officers from several departments including Pike County and Troy ­ is concerned about the growing problem of methamphetamine.

In talking with other law enforcement officers, Thomas has learned a large number of methamphetamine labs have been discovered in a six-county area during the past few months.

"We’ve seen an increase in demand, use and manufacturing of crystal meth within our area," Thomas said. "We’re going to do our part to combat the problem. Right now, it appears to be a very popular drug."

One way to combat the problem is for parents to be knowledgeable about drug usage, Everage said, adding information can be found at the police department’s web site:

"Parents need to be as knowledgeable as they can," Everage said. "I think it’s time we all wake up and realize we have responsibility as parents."

Everage quickly pointed out even the best parents can have a child turn to drugs, but being educated and aware can save that child.

"Four or five years after they’ve been on drugs is not the time to try to turn things around," Everage said.

Plus, methamphetamine is one of those drugs that crosses all barriers and is not isolated to use among a segment of the population.

Open communication and expressing love and concern are necessary or they will turn to their drug "family," the police chief said.

"We’re concerned about it and we have been for a good while," Everage said.

That’s where educating patrol officers and deputies has come into play and paid off when officers have made cases by just happening upon a methamphetamine operation while on routine patrol.

"We’ve educated our patrol officers on what to recognize and how to deal with these situations," Everage said of methamphetamine labs.

Three of the city’s recent cases have been made because of an alert patrol officer, as have some of the Pike County Sheriff’s Department.

"This is something we’re taking very seriously," Everage said, adding all law enforcement officers in Pike County are using every available resource to address the problem.