VIRGINIA BEACH — Epidemic.
That’s the word Joseph Mazzuca of Meth Lab Cleanup Company uses to describe mobile meth labs.
“They are the latest trend, that is ninety-eight percent of what our company sees east of the Rocky Mountains,” Mazzuca told 13News Now. “The trend right now that we’re seeing is off the charts. I mean, you know, we’re getting calls all day, every day.”
By no means is Hampton Roads escaping the volatile and dangerous trend.
In June, Virginia Beach police came across a suspected mobile meth lab in a truck. Emergency workers cleaned up the materials used to make the highly addictive drug in a parking lot along Holland Road.
In April, a Virginia State trooper pulled over 39-year-old Christie Anne Smith of Friendsville, Maryland on Interstate 64. A VSP spokesman said the trooper found her with a “one-person lab.”
Hazmat crews set up tables on the side of the road, put liquids into containers, then took them away. They also used large, dark bags for other materials.
“There are many hazards in relation to, you know, handling or the disposal process of these hazardous materials,” said Officer Patrick Kane with Virginia Beach Police Department. “One pound of methamphetamines creates six pounds of hazardous waste that needs to be disposed of.
When it comes to mobile meth labs, Kane said, “I don’t think there’s any specific benefit other than trying to transport some of the materials that create an unusual odor that they don’t want other people in the area to be alarmed about, or they’re in the process of trying to get rid of some of the hazardous materials that is created by making methamphetamines.”
“People are being more and more creative about how they can create drugs, how they can buy and sell them, how they can buy them cheaper and make them for more money,” said addiction recovery expert Paul Hardy, who explained the added danger that comes when production is being carried out by a meth addict whose thinking can be erratic.
“They’re mind just goes to all kinds of places. They’re just not able to concentrate on a thought. That person now has to put a certain level of ingredients in a certain order together at a certain time in a very detailed manner or they have an explosive in their hands,” said Hardy.
He, along with Mazzuca, said the Shake ‘n’ Bake Method of production remains one of the most popular. It requires a bottle, a limited amount of materials, and a lot of movement.
“A lot of it, we attribute to the economy, which is bad, and the loss of jobs,” Mazzuca stated. “We’re seeing people doing these small Shake ‘n’ Bake meth labs, ’cause they’re so easy to set up.”
“You’re shaking this for a period of time. If you don’t let the air out at a certain amount, if you don’t let it out at the right time, it will literally burst into flames wherever it is: in your face, in your vehicle, on your backpack, wherever you are.”
Because meth production typically finishes at a home base, police suggest being mindful of a number of things that could indicate a meth lab on or off the road.
“Let’s say they see a vehicle or some type of structure that has, you know, an unusual amount of glass bottles with tubes coming out, buckets, any glass or metal cookware with some type of substance that appears foreign to them or if they, you know, smell some type of unusual odor that they’re not used to, call law enforcement personnel immediately so that we can investigate the matter,” Kane said.