Meth manufacturing surges as meth labs get smaller - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Meth manufacturing surges as meth labs get smaller


Law enforcement officers are concerned about the rising number of meth labs, and meth dumps, in Eastern Iowa. The Tri-County Drug Task Force handles illegal activity in Black Hawk and Bremer counties. According to the Drug Task Force, the number of meth labs and meth dumps in the region more than doubled from 2010-2011.

It's also getting tougher to prevent someone from purchasing the ingredients to make methamphetamine. Many of the items are found in a hardware store. Which is why Ridgeway True Value owner John Schotter said, his job description has grown to include keeping tabs on drug makers.

"Sulphuric acid, lye. Those are two products that I know for sure that are being used for drugs so we just dropped them all together so we didn't have to deal with it," he said.

Schotter moved other items to the back room to discourage people who are up to no good. But as investigators clue into illegal use of one product, meth cookers find ingredients somewhere else. For example, Schotter was caught off guard last fall by a sudden rush on fertilizer spikes.

"I just thought -- heck, we're selling the heck out of these things!" he recalled.

"These fertilizer sticks can be used as basically a condensed solid form of anhydrous ammonia," explained Lt. Corbin Payne of the Tri-County Drug Task Force

So when the state cracked down on pseudoephedrine purchases, meth manufacturers took a hit. But it didn't last long.

"60% of our time has gone back to meth labs and this type of stuff here. It dropped way down when the pseudoephedrine law passed in 2007-2008. It dropped dramatically. And we focused on other things. And now it's picked back up," Payne said.

Meth manufacturers have changed their method of operation. They've scaled down the labs to fit into 32 ounce sports drink bottles.

"It's a one-pot method, or a shake and bake is what it's called. They're making them smaller and more convenient so they can dispose of them quicker," said Payne.

Payne said with the increase in one pot labs, there's a much greater chance of accidentally running across one. Especially as volunteers begin spring pick-up along highways and back roads.

"A lot of times we're finding them on gravel roads and ditches. People are just driving and throwing these things out the window," he explained.

Payne doesn't expect the problem to go away anytime soon, which is why he asks people like Schotter to stay vigilant. Payne said, if something doesn't look right, call for help and don't try to dispose of a suspicious bottle yourself.

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