More Meth Labs Showing Up in Cities, Suburbs
Methamphetamine lab seizures are on the rise in the nation’s cities and suburbs, raising new concerns about a lethal drug that has long been the scourge of rural America.
Data and interviews from an investigation by The Associated Press found growing numbers of meth lab seizures in cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., Nashville, Tenn., and Evansville, Ind. Authorities are also seeing evidence that inner-city gangs are becoming involved in meth production and distribution.
"No question about it - there are more labs in the urban areas," said Tom Farmer, coordinator of the Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force. "I’m seeing car fires from meth in urban areas now, more people getting burned."
The increase in labs is especially troubling because meth brought into the U.S. from Mexico also is becoming more pervasive in urban areas. The Associated Press reported in October that so-called Mexican "super labs" are upping production, making meth more pure and less expensive, and then using existing drug pipelines in big cities.
Data obtained by AP shows that homemade meth is on the rise in metropolitan areas, too.
- St. Louis County had just 30 lab seizures in 2009, but 83 through July 31, putting it on pace for 142 in 2012. The city of St. Louis had eight in 2009 and is on pace for 50 this year.
- Jackson County, Mo., (which includes Kansas City) had 21 seizures in 2009 and is on pace for 65 this year.
- Meth lab seizures have tripled in the Nashville area over the past two years. In one case in late 2011, a man and his girlfriend were accused of recruiting more than three dozen people, including some who were homeless, to visit multiple pharmacies and purchase the legal limit of cold pills containing pseudoephedrine, a key meth ingredient. The couple and 37 others were indicted.
- The Evansville, Ind., area has seen a more than 500 percent rise in meth seizures since 2010, with 82 in 2011.
Authorities cite numerous reasons for meth moving into cities, but chief among them is the rise in so-called "one-pot" or "shake-and-bake" meth.
In years past, meth was cooked in a makeshift lab. The strong ammonia-like smell carried over a wide area, so to avoid detection, meth had to be made in backwoods locations.