Comments Off on Local Methamphetamine producers becoming more mobile in Buchanan County, Missouri

While Missouri’s methamphetamine use remains high, the Drug Strike Force hasn’t seen as many labs in recent years.

In 2014, Buchanan County law enforcement agencies reported to the Missouri State Highway Patrol they discovered and cleaned up a single clandestine meth site. These meth sites are different than meth labs, in that clandestine sites can be simpler, smaller and harder to identify.

That number peaked in 2002 when the agencies found 51 clandestine meth sites. Lt. Shawn Collie with the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force said these days meth labs are more rare than they were in the 1990s, but much more clandestine.

“To the point where they can be mobile,” Mr. Collie said, adding that the process for producing meth has become so compact that producers will use hotel rooms or even run labs out of their cars.

It wasn’t always this way, Mr. Collie said. Many of the labs they found would have beakers and elaborate systems for producing the drug. Now, all it takes is a couple of plastic containers and some chemicals.

Additionally, one of the easiest ways to identify a meth lab was by the smell of anhydrous ammonia, a gas that meth producers don’t use much of anymore.

“The meth labs are ever changing,” Mr. Collie said. “The people are coming up with news ways, new ideas, and so they come up with ways to avoid detection. So they’ve taken meth labs, what used to be days or weeks to start and finish the process, to now, a meth cook could be done within an hour or two if you have all the supplies.”

During the 1990s, car stops and truck stops would reveal labs in cars and the strike force would be called in to clean it up, which can itself be a problem. While the strike force cleans up the lab, much of the effort goes into purging the house or car of all the harmful chemicals.

“It takes a lot of effort to clean the lab, but it also has the other side of it, the money that’s spent in the process,” Mr. Collie said.

While the highway patrol’s numbers could indicate a decrease in meth labs, Mr. Collie said it just reflects the number of labs they’ve seized. He said a lot of the meth now used in the area comes from Mexico, where it can be produced in higher quantities.

“Typically what we were seeing in the past was your larger meth labs were a lower purity level because they didn’t have the time and the resources because they didn’t have time to wash all the junk away from the cook,” Mr. Collie said.

Distinguishing between stateside meth and Mexican meth can be difficult because though Mexican meth’s purity may be higher, it can be cut with various other chemicals. But for Mr. Collie identifying those sources is important.

“A lot of times with a lot of drug cases it’s not as simple as they’re pulled over (and) they’re arrested,” Mr. Collie said. “We try to identify the sources of where the methamphetamine is coming from.”

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