Comments Off on One-pot way of making meth leaves Ind. city with empty, toxic homes

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – In April, the vacant home on Waggoner Avenue was the site of a methamphetamine one-pot lab explosion. Now, 10 months later, a large blue tarp covers the roof, and junk is strewed about the front yard. On the front door, a peeling and faded orange sign labels the house unfit for occupancy.

William Redfairn, who lives next door, said that abandoned house is one of as many as five others in his neighborhood alone.

“It’s a shame you’ve got to live next door to something like that. It’s frustrating,” he said.

Residents and landlords across Evansville share Redfairn’s frustration. The Vanderburgh County Health Department has condemned at least 160 properties due to meth production since the one-pot method of meth production was introduced to Evansville in early 2010.

Reports of one-pot labs have been taken from all areas of the county. But most have been found inside homes within the central portion of the city, which includes the largest number of rental properties.

Residents and city officials worry that the labs’ spread will drag down a city already suffering economically.

“That’s why this really has become a quality-of-life issue for the entire community,” said Monte Fetter, head of the local Property Owners and Managers Association.

A map of housing values prepared by the city Department of Metropolitan Development reveals most of the condemned properties were in areas where home values were less than $50,000.

Fetter said if the problem worsens, landlords will be forced to pass the burden of prevention on to the prospective tenant, which includes paying for background checks and tougher lease conditions.

“Are we going to have a leper colony of low-quality tenants? Do we need to have a system where our tenants need to be licensed?” Fetter said. “We don’t know.”

“So the prospect of cleaning up a meth house could just set a landlord over the edge,” Fetter said. “You’ve already got all that overhead, and then when something like a meth house comes along, it can be devastating in a lot of ways. In some cases, we’ve seen homes abandoned, and they fall off the tax rolls and then the whole community suffers.”

Most property owners affected by meth lab discoveries opt to have their property cleaned to rigorous and expensive state-enforced standards. But those costs make it harder for landlords to stay in business, Fetter said.

“So the prospect of cleaning up a meth house could just set a landlord over the edge,” Fetter said. “You’ve already got all that overhead, and then when something like a meth house comes along, it can be devastating in a lot of ways. In some cases, we’ve seen homes abandoned, and they fall off the tax rolls and then the whole community suffers.”

Besides the labs reported to police, there are an unknown number of others that are discovered by future tenants. Donetta Held, of Crisis Cleaning, said some of her clients have moved into homes and became suspicious of meth lab production. Held recalled one couple who bought a home and then found a red residue inside.

“We tested it for them, and it turns out it was from a meth lab,” she said. “And this was a high-dollar home, but people were still using it to cook meth.”

Crisis Cleaning is one of at least three companies that test and decontaminate homes in Vanderburgh County. In homes where one-pot labs were found, the toxic residue is far more volatile than that left by earlier meth-making methods.

“It’s much more highly toxic and dangerous than the standard way they used to cook,” she said.

Vanderburgh County Health Department Supervisor Dwayne Caldwell said even a trace of residue left on a surface inside a home could be toxic to a child.

“A child in that environment will absorb it through the skin, or they may ingest it or inhale it,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said one advantage meth cooks see in the one-pot method is its portability, which allows them to hide in urban areas. “The problem is, the people making this stuff aren’t the calmest of people, so you don’t think they’ll rationally handle a bottle that’s expanding from all the gas,” he said. “They’re like little bombs.”

Last year, Vanderburgh County, again saw the highest number of meth labs in the state with 116 reported. It also saw the most in 2010 with 95. Of the labs reported statewide last year, at least 74 percent were one-pot labs.

Along with the ability to hide the one-pot method inside a home it also is lucrative. Don Martin said his next-door neighbor had a roofing company that fell on hard times. The home was the site of another meth lab explosion about a year ago.

“And I think that’s when things started going downhill was when his roofing company fell apart,” Martin said.

 

 

 

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