Comments Off on Methamphetamine in the Valley: Sheriff’s team cleans up labs

Tim Stryker is a member of the Holmes County Meth Lab ContainmentHOLMESVILLE – Staying focused is critical when attempting to dismantle a cooking methamphetamine lab, says a local law-enforcement officer.

“I’ve had a lot of incidents when the lab caught on fire while being dismantled,” said Sgt. Tim Stryker, a member of the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department’s Meth Lab Containment Team. “You can’t keep that on your mind, or it will slow you down. You have a job to do.

“If you’re scared of the situation, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

One of the ingredients of meth is lithium, which can react to moisture in the air.

“The quicker you can contain the lab, the safer you are,” he said.

Styker, a Millersburg native and a graduate of West Holmes High School, has worked for the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department for 15 years — 13 years as a deputy — and has been a member of the Meth Lab Containment Team for the past three years. The team, commanded by Sgt. Joe Mullet, has cleaned up meth labs in Holmes, Tuscarawas, Harrison and Carroll counties. The members all have received extensive training.

Stryker wears many hats.

In addition to serving on the containment team, he is also Holmes County’s K-9 officer, working for the past several years with King, a Belgian Malinois.

King assists Stryker in searching for other drugs, but not meth. If the dog were to be taken to a location where there was an active cook, King could suffer dangerous health consequences from the fumes.

Stryker is also a captain on the Millersburg Fire Department, serving as both a firefighter and an EMT.

When team members arrive for a containment operation, the first thing they do is size up the situation, he said. They talk to the first responders to get as much information as possible. “You don’t want to walk into an unknown situation unless you have to,” he said.

Then they suit up in special safety apparel.

“We always have two guys on scene,” Stryker said. “One watches out for the things you might forget.”

Not only are active meth labs potentially dangerous, but team members also have to be aware of the fact that each cook has his or her own recipe, which can change the situation.

At one of the team’s most recent calls in November, they had to deal with four one-pot meth labs in Gatorade bottles at a residence in Midvale. Two of the four were actively cooking.

One of the most unnerving situations the team was involved in occurred in Holmes County. Going undercover, Mullet learned that some people were cooking meth at a remote campsite.

A group of five or six officers was assembled to make the wintertime bust. They had to hike about 150 to 200 yards along a trail through a forest to reach the site. Stryker led the way.

“Going in, the element of surprise was limited,” he said.

He could smell lithium in the air, so he knew it was an active cook. “There’s no other smell like that,” he said.

Stryker walked into the camp and started talking to a man who was cooking the meth. It was then that Stryker realized the potentially dangerous meth lab was sitting right at his feet.

Calls about meth labs in the four counties spiked earlier this year as public awareness grew about what to look for. He praised police and firefighters in Tuscarawas County, who have all received training from the Holmes County team. “They’re great to work with,” he said.

Hotel owners in Tuscarawas County have also been tipping off authorities about potential problems. “Their awareness is high,” Stryker said. “They know what to see and smell.”

While there has been a recent lull in activity, Stryker said the problem has not gone away. “It’s still out there.”

The people cooking meth now just haven’t made any mistakes that would tip off law enforcement or the public.

“It’s just a matter of time before the next call comes in,” Stryker said. “It might slow down, but it’s always there.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.timesreporter.com/article/20141130/NEWS/141139969/?Start=2

 

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