Authorities in the Wilmington area are trying to crack down on meth labs and, according to district attorney Ben David, they have had some success in their attempts. For dependable drug rehab in Wilmington NC, please keep reading to see how Legacy can help your family with substance abuse issues.
Breaking Bad on Meth Labs and Cooks
Law enforcement in New Hanover and Pender counties started an operation two years ago called “Operation One-Pot to Prison” which aims to find people who cook meth. It is in partnership with the NC State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) as well as local businesses. The 2015 investigation ended up getting six convictions, and 14 labs were busted in New Hanover County.
The operation targets people who are involved in different levels of meth manufacturing, including people who buy the items needed to make meth, such as cold medicine, batteries and drain cleaner, all the way up to the person who sells the drugs. The name “one-pot” refers to the fact that anyone can take one pot or container and mix up a batch of meth anywhere, even in a residence with unsuspecting neighbors.
“What you’re looking at are several defendants who took just one pot — a small container, glass or plastic – and manufactured meth here in our community. And that’s why we call it, one-pot-to-prison,” David told the Port City Daily.
Cooking meth is dangerous. Mixing the ingredients, which can be harmless on their own, causes them to become toxic. They are also flammable and can even become explosive, putting the cook as well as anyone nearby in danger. Unfortunately, meth labs usually go unnoticed until something bad happens.
David added, “We had flammable and highly toxic sites right in neighborhoods where children are playing.”
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The 2015 investigation by the SBI and New Hanover police resulted in the shutdown of five meth labs that were located in homes and apartments. According to reports by the police, there were children in at least one of the homes that was busted.
The StarNews reported in a recent article, “On a little girl's dresser covered in Hello Kitty stickers sat a bottle, full to bursting with chemicals, toxic fumes and methamphetamine.”
Six people were convicted in that bust, and 788 grams of toxic liquid containing meth was recovered from the labs. Two women were charged with purchasing the ingredients. People who purchase the items needed to make meth are often called “smurfs.” They trade what they purchase for the drug in many cases.
Targeting people who buy ingredients is not an uncommon practice. Law enforcement developed strategies to find people who buy large quantities of the ingredients needed to make meth. They use store receipts as evidence. In 2012, the SBI created a database that allows agents to track suspicious purchases.
The women who were charged pled guilty to possession of precursors of meth, but then they became informants for the investigators. They were able to lead them to other meth cooks in the area. Both of their sentences were reduced in exchange for their help.
They were able to lead authorities to four men who were cooking meth in a local residence. Each of them has since pled guilty and are now serving time for manufacturing the drug and other charges that were related to the investigation.
Assistant District Attorney Timothy Servo, who has been involved with the operation, says meth labs are not like they are portrayed on television.
He told Port City Daily, “There’s a misconception out there that this is ‘Breaking Bad’ and this happens in a trailer somewhere in some isolated area but that’s not the case.”
He went on to explain that “it happens in apartment complexes, where this toxic waste is dumped into dumpsters. It happens in homes and communities. One of these was right down the street from a firefighter.”
The operation aims to not only bust people who are selling meth in order to get it off the streets but also protect people from the dangers of meth labs. In many cases, people cook in their homes with children present. Neighbors are often clueless as to what is happening near them.
Cooking meth not only runs the risk of causing fires and explosions, it can contaminate the home and surrounding areas. The chemicals and fumes are hazardous. That’s why officials who bust meth labs go into the sites in hazmat suits, gloves and goggles. They also do not just go in and dispose of the contents. The site is decontaminated and the lab is carefully dismantled. It can take several hours, according to the SBI Lab Unit. The officials working on the case are in danger as well, so they need to be protected.
Meth labs are also being busted in other coastal areas. In Carteret County, local law enforcement officials started Operation Hourglass, which is aimed at people dealing and using drugs. They have arrested 17 people for possession and selling drugs and hope to add to that number over the coming weeks. The majority of the arrests have been related to heroin, but there were a few people arrested for manufacturing meth.
The district attorney, Scott Thomas, said in order for a drug operation to be successful, it needs a comprehensive approach.
“That approach involves education, prevention, intervention, treatment and tough enforcement for repeat offenders, violent offenders and those trafficking large quantities of drugs,” he said.
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