Comments Off on As meth labs rise, police alert public of dangers
ONEIDA — All it takes is one person to show a few friends how to cook the drug methamphetamine using a number of household items, then it’s all downhill from there, authorities warned Thursday.

Those friends then show their friends or family how to make the addictive stimulant using explosive homemade labs the size of a Gatorade bottle, and pretty soon the scourge of meth has swelled throughout a community like cancer, state police officials said.


Some of the ingredients and materials used to make the drug methamphetamine in homemade labs are displayed on a table at the New York State Police Troop D headquarters in Oneida on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. At left is a protective suit worn by officers who respond to these highly explosive labs

That’s what authorities believe has happened across the Oneida and Madison county region, where state police Troop D responses to meth-related labs and fires have more than doubled since last year, from 23 in 2011 to 57 this year. Statewide, the total number of incidents so far this year is 127.

“You can do this anywhere, at any time,” Technical Sgt. Doug Wildermuth of the state police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team, or CCSERT, said of the makeshift labs that have been popping up across Central New York.

Nowadays, Wildermuth said, the method of making meth has evolved into something simpler and streamlined, but just as dangerous.

In the past, he said, clandestine labs often consisted of tubes, bottles or jars spread out across a kitchen counter, sometimes using a stove or another electrical device for a cooking process that would last from three to five hours. But now, the drug can be made in less than 90 minutes by simply dropping a number of toxic ingredients – like acids, drain cleanerand Lithium from batteries – into a plastic bottle and watching them bubble like a science experiment.

It’s called the “shake-n-bake” or “one-pot” method, and if shaken too much the consequences can be deadly, Wildermuth said Thursday during a presentation at state police Troop D headquarters in Oneida to highlight the risks such activity creates. As the bottles bulge with ammonia gas, he said, a bursting bottle can act like a flamethrower by scattering the ignited solvents.

The number of meth-related fires and explosions locally has risen recently, like a clandestine lab in Rome this year that caught fire and burned an infant and her mother inside a residence, Wildermuth said.

This year so far, Troop D state police have responded to 32 labs in Madison County, 11 in Oneida County, 12 in Oswego County and one each in both Jefferson and Onondaga counties.

Despite these dangers, meth abusers can carry these labs in their car or even a backpack while the drug is cooking, Wildermuth said. Then once the process is done, the dangerous byproducts are often just tossed on the side of the road.

While meth cookers not only put themselves at risk, they also create dangers for the rest of the community, including innocent passersby and the emergency crews who respond to these incidents without knowing what they’re getting into, Wildermuth said.

“We don’t know whether they’ve had this training,” Wildermuth said of first responders in smaller communities who might not be aware of the signs of meth labs. “There’s illegal drug activity going on right in front of them, and they don’t know it.”

So as Wildermuth believes that proactive training can better help police and first responders detect clandestine labs wherever they may crop up, state police officials are also encouraging the public to be on the lookout for warning signs.

The frequent smell of strong chemicals in the air is something to note, as well as large amounts of dumped trash that might include chemical containers, coffee filters and Sudafed packages, Wildermuth said. Also, seeing a Gatorade or Powerade plastic bottle with a large tube coming from it is probably a sign that something isn’t right, he said.

It is important for people to know what to look for, Wildermuth said, because otherwise: “Families and children, they don’t know they’re around this stuff because they are usually household items.” In the end, he said, it’s connecting the dots that can reveal something much more threatening.



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