When police discover a meth lab, it’s a delicate, dangerous job to collect all the hazardous materials.
“All we do is remove the hazardous items and it’s up to the homeowner to have a HAZMAT crew come in and clean the house out,” Master Trooper Andy Smith, who is on the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section, said.
Every lab has six categories of items used to make the meth. Crews separate the different items used in the one-pot method of making meth into different tubs to make sure no other chemical reactions occur.
So far this year, the state police have logged 22 meth labs in the eleven counties in northeast Indiana’s district. Thirteen of those were busted since January 21.
“I was on my way to a meth lab in Kendallville this morning and I could smell a meth lab. I knew it was within a block or two, but it wasn’t the one I was going to. It was one we haven’t found yet,” Smith said.
Smith said as they process scenes, they will combine as much as they can in the tubs. It costs upwards of $100 per tub, so to save money, the team tries to cut down on how many they use. Federal grants fund the meth suppression unit’s efforts.
On Wednesday, a HAZMAT disposal company came to pick up 33 tubs from the storage shed at the Fort Wayne post. It already has several stacks all the way to the ceiling.
“Every year the numbers increase. It’s not that we’re going out looking for more. It does it on its own,” Smith said.
Capt. Kevin Hunter with the Fort Wayne Police Department’s Vice & Narcotics Division said meth is becoming more prevalent.
“Meth cooks are familiar with other cooks and they show each other how it’s done. It’s easy to make with common household goods and it’s a drug of choice right now,” Hunter said.
Fort Wayne police busted two meth labs on Thursday. That makes five so far in 2014. In 2013, there were 64 meth labs investigated in Allen County, which is double the number in 2012.
“Talking to my guys in the meth suppression unit, they think they’re going to break a record again this year,” Hunter said.
Statewide, there were 1,808 meth lab busts, which put Indiana at the top of the list nationally. Smith said the state is close with Tennessee for the top two spots.
Hunter said the community can help police curb the meth problem by reporting tips.
“Those dealers or meth makers we get have a core group of friends that we start looking at. It’s just a big spiderweb,” he said.
Hunter added making pseudoephedrine-containing medications prescription only would cause a drastic drop in meth labs. The drug is essential to making meth with the one-pot method. He cited other states that changed the law and saw meth lab numbers go down.
“We in law enforcement are doing the best we can, but it’s an epidemic,” Smith said. “I wish there was a simple fix to it. It’s such a highly addictive drug and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. We need to take a hard look at what it will take to curb the problem.”