Comments Off on Troopers urge awareness in ongoing meth battle

ONEIDA — Be wary of anyone asking you to buy Sudafed for them at the store, they may be using it to make methamphetamine — and you may unknowingly become a ‘smurf’.

The State Police held a methamphetamine awareness seminar at the Troop D headquarters in Oneida Thursday, to help warn local residents about spotting meth labs and the dangers of producing the drug. The process of making methamphetamine is highly volatile, and can lead to explosions and house fires.

A meth lab found on Floyd Avenue in Rome on July 27 was only discovered after the chemicals ignited in the attic. The early morning fire burned an infant and a young mother, sending both to the hospital.

“It’s an extremely dangerous environment that we have to deal with,” said Captain Eric Underhill, with the State Police Emergency Management.

The state police held the seminar because Oneida County and the surrounding areas have the most meth production in the entire state, troopers said. And they want the public to know what to be on the lookout for.

“We’ve seen a large increase in clandestine drug labs” in just the past year, explained Tech Sgt. Doug Wildermuth, of the Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team. “Our numbers have gone up astronomically.”

In 2011, state police across the state responded to 45 meth labs total, and so far in 2012 there have been 127 discovered across New York. Roughly half of those calls were in or around Oneida County, the authorities said. There were 23 labs in 2011, and so far 57 found in 2012 by the local Troop D.

One reason for the increase in meth production has been the development of the “one pot” or “shake & bake” method, which has plagued the area for the past few years, state police said.

Whereas old meth-making practices involved larger operations, equipment and more chemicals, the “shake & bake” method just needs a single bottle, often from a soda or sports drink. State police said it takes only 60 to 90 minutes to cook up some meth with the “shake & bake” method, and since it’s just a bottle, the operation can be done practically anywhere.

“You can do this anywhere at any time,” Wildermuth stated. And all of the ingredients can be purchased over the counter.

Among the ingredients are Sudafed medicine, drain cleaner, acetone, rock salt, and lithium batteries. There are limits as to how much a single person can buy some of these items from drug stores, but state police said the meth cooks have found a way around this by having their friends and family make the purchases for them. These people are known as “smurfs” based on the old 1980s cartoon show.

“One cook will teach another person, who will teach another person; a group of friends, family members,” explained Lt. Mary Clark, with the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team. “They’re not making it to make a profit, they’re making it for their personal use.”

Once these people have made the methamphetamine, they are known to dump the leftover ingredients and equipment on the side of the road, where anyone can find it. The state police warned against touching any of these materials if you find them, because they could still be dangerous. Be on the lookout for bottles with large tubes sticking out of the top. Or look for any suspicious combination of the above items in someone’s house.

“Families, children, they don’t know they’re around this stuff because it’s just household items,” Wildermuth stated. “Having all of these items together, that’s a real big red flag.”

Anyone with information on any active meth labs in the area, or even has a suspicion, is asked to call the state police at 366-6000. All calls will be kept confidential.



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