Comments Off on Pekin police: Meth labs on the increase in city

PEKIN, Ill. — Meth chefs have made their way back into Pekin, honing their skills so that their chemical potions are easier and faster to cook.

There have been two methamphetamine lab busts in less than three weeks in residential areas of the city — one on May 20 by Pekin police and a new one Friday by the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group.

In Friday’s raid, two Pekin residents were arrested when MEG, the Illinois State Police SWAT team and Pekin police executed a search warrant at 210 Cooper St. Officers seized a working meth lab, methamphetamine and two firearms.

MEG officials declined to give further information about the arrests.

Arrested were Travis A. Zimmerman, 28, and Angela Mitson, 31, both of the Cooper Street address, for unlawful possession of firearms by a felon and the unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine.

Zimmerman and Mitson are being held on a federal warrant without bond at the Tazewell County Justice Center. Federal charges are pending.

Under federal law, the offense of conspiracy to manufacture meth carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison, meth manufacture a sentence of five to 40 years in prison and possession of meth equipment a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Possession of firearms by a felon carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, while possession of firearms in relation to a drug-trafficking crime carries a mandatory sentence of five years in prison which must be served consecutive to any other prison sentence.

Four people were arrested and then charged in the May 20 raid — Stephanie L. Hutchinson, 25, of 211 N. 10th. St., Pekin; Erik G. Follis, 32, of 2007 Windsor St., Pekin; Michelle R. Lowe, 30, of 1912 Karo, Pekin; and Randy L. Potts, 28, of 116 Calumet Road, Marquette Heights. All were charged with aggravated participation in methamphetamine manufacturing, a Class X felony, which is punishable by six to 30 years in prison. All four were indicted by a Tazewell County grand jury on June 2.

Pekin Police Detective Seth Ranney said that the department is seeing more activity on the meth lab front in Pekin.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of labs seized and in the amount of information gathered from witnesses and suspects,” said Ranney. “I know the numbers are up, but I am not sure by what percentage.”

While typically meth cooks will take their labs out into the countryside during the warmer months to avoid detection, the latest two busts have been inside apartments or homes. Recipes have changed to allow for faster cooking.

“People get comfortable with things and to keep it indoors,” said Ranney.

One of the biggest tools police have to work with is local retailers. Pharmacies keep track of the amount of pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in meth — purchased by individuals. Other retailers call police when people purchase large amounts of items used to make meth such as red phosphorous matches, Heet, lye and tincture of iodine, said Ranney.

Ingredients for the manufacture of meth have changed over the years, changing the odor given off during the cooking process, said Ranney. In the past people often referred to it as the smell of cat urine or ammonia. That’s not always the case now, said Ranney.

Ranney said that a meth lab may be present if there is a strong chemical smell. Each batch may smell differently, because of the combination of chemicals used. A lot of traffic to and from a residence may also be an indicator of a meth house.

Tazewell meth history

Tazewell County was at the height of the meth war when the Operation Rattlesnake Task Force was formed in February 2003. As a result of the task force’s work, 22 area residents were charged federally by May 2004. Others followed. One of the conspirators was Kenneth Zimmerman, 26 at the time, of Delavan. He was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. It is not known if Travis and Kenneth are related.

Kenneth Zimmerman manufactured 6,581.35 grams of meth, an amount so large that federal sentencing rules required U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade to impose a mandatory life sentence.

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