Methamphetamine is a problem in DeKalb County and local law enforcement officers have been busy trying to put those who make meth out of business and behind bars.
Statistics released Monday by Sheriff Patrick Ray reveal that in DeKalb County the number of meth lab seizures is up compared to last year. "For the reporting year September 2011 to September 2012, DeKalb County law enforcement reported eight meth labs that were seized. From September 2012 to September 2013, there were fifteen reported meth labs, an increase of 87.5%," said Sheriff Ray. "These are traced by the Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force. We send all of our reports in to the Task Force who keeps up with the statistics," he said.
Statistics show that the meth problem is not just in DeKalb County. Others have also found more meth labs this past year. "Cannon County reported having eight more meth labs. DeKalb had seven more than the previous year. Smith County had six more. Wilson County had eight more and Putnam County had sixteen more," said Sheriff Ray. "Putnam is one of the top five counties in the state and second highest in meth lab seizures for the year. Putnam had a total of 52 meth lab seizures reported this last year," he said.
"Out of those 15 DeKalb County meth labs seized in 2012-2013, the Tennessee Highway Patrol reported getting one meth lab out of a vehicle. The Smithville Police Department reported two meth labs. One was at a trash or dump site. One was out of a vehicle. The sheriff's department had twelve meth labs. Six of those were out of a dwelling. Three of them were out of a car. Three of them were at trash or dump sites. Out of the six meth labs found in a home, officers quarantined those dwellings. They put stickers on the front doors and back doors and filed with the meth task force that the residences had been quarantined," said Sheriff Ray.
Once a home is quarantined, no one is allowed to enter other than authorized personnel, until that home is free of toxic hazards. "The owner of the property is required to have a hygienist come in and check to see if meth shows up there. It can be in the carpet or it might be on the walls and or ceilings. It's just an examination to see if meth has ever been produced there in the home. The hygienist will come in and draw samples. It's very expensive for a hygienist to do that. The samples they pull are very expensive. They will send off those samples to a lab which will then report back with the results on whether any methamphetamine has been cooked there. If so, the property is set up on a tier system. The lowest tier involves a cleanup, maybe washing the walls down or painting, etc. . If the home is on the high tier, it may have to be completely gutted. That could mean all the carpets, baseboards, walls, insulation, and ceiling would have to be replaced with new material. It's very expensive and it's all the land owner's responsibility," said Sheriff Ray.
Civil penalties may be assessed to renters who caused the damage but landowners would have to take them to court. "If the landowner is renting to somebody and this happens, they can sue the person for all the expense they are out to get the quarantine took off the home," said Sheriff Ray.
If the landowner chooses to do nothing with the home under quarantine, the dwelling can't be used for any purpose until its cleaned up. "Under that quarantine no one can enter the home, regardless of what it has in there. They can't go in and get clothes or anything else like that. The only ones who are certified to go in are the hygienist who draws the samples, the contractors that go in and do the work, and anyone who has had the training in meth labs, but they all have to wear the protective clothing to go back in there to do whatever they need," he said.
Once a meth lab is found, Sheriff Ray said reports must be completed and sent in to the Meth Task Force. "When we finish with a meth lab we're required to fill out and send in paper work. There are usually three categories on the report to note where we found the meth lab. One is in a dwelling, whether it be a family dwelling, apartment etc. One is in a vehicle. If we find a meth lab in a vehicle in what we call a rolling meth lab, we will check that box on the report. The other one is a trash site or a dump site. That's where the meth maker has finished up a cook and they have a lot of waste that is left over from that. They will pitch it beside of the road or maybe sneak up into a wooded area and dump it out of the back of their vehicle so as not to get caught. They don't want anybody to see them doing it so they will sometimes try to hide it in a wooded area," he said.
Pseudoephrine is a key ingredient in making meth and new laws have been passed in recent years placing limits on the sale of some over the counter cold and allergy medicines. "If you buy pseudoephedrine or any kind of cold medicine that has pseudoephedrine in it, you can only buy so much at a time. That's why you have to show them your driver's license and sign for it," said Sheriff Ray. "Any individual is only allowed 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine per day and not to exceed nine grams per month. There is a restriction on how much you can buy per day and per month. From September 2012 to September 2013, a total of 159 people were blocked which means they tried to buy more than 3.6 grams a day or more than nine grams per month. Of course not all of them were cooking meth," said Sheriff Ray. "Some may have tried to buy it too quickly and the system rejected them where they couldn't buy it. There were 659 who either made or attempted to make purchases of pseudoephedrine and there were 3,383 purchases of pseudoephedrine for DeKalb County from September 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013.," he said.
If you suspect someone of making meth or committing any other crime in your community, Sheriff Ray urges you to call the crime tip line to report it. "I want to encourage the public to take advantage of our crime tip line to call in tips. It is 464- 6400. You may call and remain anonymous or call the Sheriff's Department. The number is 597-4935. You may call and talk to me about crime going on in your community. We try our best to check every tip that we get. We want you to call those in. We appreciate you being our eyes and ears out in your communities. We ask you to keep calling in tips to us," Sheriff Ray concluded.