Three recent methamphetamine-related arrests in Martinsville— two of them just weeks apart — suggest meth is on the rise in the city, according to Police Chief Sean Dunn.
Dunn, who became the city’s police chief on May 5, said that before he came to Martinsville, he had been under the impression that meth was on the rise across Southwest Virginia, “so I was actually pleasantly surprised to arrive here and be informed from staff that we’re not seeing much of a meth problem,” he said.
Since then, however, there have been three meth-related arrests in the city, which causes Dunn concern.
“We’re definitely on high alert for this,” he said. “We’re hoping to … make the public aware of how dangerous it is and continue our enforcement efforts.
”Methamphetamine is an illegal synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant. It can be made illegally in homes, vehicles and elsewhere.
The two most recent arrests were Frank Red Sink Jr., 44, who was charged Aug. 1 with felony manufacture methamphetamine and felony possession of methamphetamine; and David R. Cannaday, 45, who was charged with possession of controlled substance and possession of marijuana.
In the first incident, Dunn said, “we received information that an individual (allegedly) was in the process of making meth. Officers went out and they were able to observe him doing what appeared to be walking outside and going through the process of … ‘working the pot’ to make the meth.”
After police noticed additional indicators of alleged meth production, a search warrant was obtained and Sink was arrested, Dunn said. The incident occurred on the 800 block of Forest Street, he added.
In the second incident, Dunn said, police stopped Cannaday’s vehicle because of improper equipment and “they recovered what appeared to be an inactive or recently finished cooking pot” allegedly related to meth production.
Both incidents, Dunn said, allegedly are examples of a newer type of meth production known as the “one pot” or “shake and bake” method, which forgoes the need for an extensive meth lab in exchange for common pharmaceutical ingredients prepared in an empty plastic two-liter soda bottle.
Although this new method is easier than older means, Dunn said, it also is exceptionally dangerous.
“This (method) is very dangerous, very volatile,” the chief said. “It’s hazardous to whoever is making it, especially someone who’s making it in an enclosed area like a car. … They’re really taking a great risk to their own personal safety, not to mention the dangers of this drug once you’ve put it into your body after you’ve manufactured it.”
According to online sources, if the meth chemicals are exposed to oxygen at the wrong time or the chemical reaction does not go as planned, it can result in a deadly explosion or a flash fire. According to previous Bulletin reports, the third city resident arrested recently in connection with meth is Christopher Ray Richardson, 35, formerly of 106 Roselawn Heights, Martinsville, who was arrested on indictments of one count each manufacture methamphetamine in the same dwelling of a minor under the age of 15; manufacture methamphetamine; and possess ammonium nitrate, hydrochloric acid, lithium and psuedoephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, methcathinone or amphetamine in connection with a May 20 incident.
Dunn said the city has received help cleaning up meth manufacturing sites from the Virginia State Police Clandestine Lab Response Team, which not only collects the dangerous components but also helps gather evidence for prosecution.
“Probably the biggest benefit to us is it helps us to manage these scenes as safely as possible,” Dunn said. “These guys are experts. They know exactly what they’re looking at. They deal with this a lot more frequently than we do.”
Dunn said several city police officers have received meth collection and cleanup training, but the level of expertise the state police offers still is invaluable.
“We’ve been very fortunate that they’ve been as responsive as they have,” he said.
To effectively combat meth in the city, Dunn said, the public’s assistance is needed. He encourages anyone who knows of meth production taking place in the city to contact the police department.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice website at http://www.justice.gov, a combination of several of the following factors can suggest the presence of meth manufacturing in a home: unusual smells, such as ether, ammonia or acetone; excessive amounts of trash, particularly chemical containers; covered windows; frequent visitors at unusual times; extensive security measures; and secretive or unfriendly occupants.
“It’s dangerous for the folks who are producing it as well as the folks who are using it,” Dunn said. “We definitely want to see this problem go away.”