Tennessee on track to be no. 1 in meth lab busts

5:38 PM, Apr 24, 2013   |    comments
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Tennessee is on track to become the number one state for meth-lab busts in the United States, according to Tommy Farmer with the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force.

Farmer says Tennessee has ranked among the top three states for meth since 2007 and is currently neck and neck with Missouri for the number one spot.

According to the TBI, during the first three months of the year Tennessee law enforcement officials busted 611 meth labs.

That's compared to 488 during the same time period in 2012.

The Morgan County Sheriff's Office says they're seeing those trends play out in their community.

According to Chief Deputy Steve Cochran they've busted 25 meth labs this year. That's quadruple the amount they busted in the same time last year. Cochran says that puts them fourth or fifth in the state.

The force now has two full-time narcotic officer positions to deal with the problem. They've also had their officers undergo training to learn how to dispose of meth labs themselves, rather than paying a contractor.

He says some of the reason for the rise in numbers may be attributed to having more officers dedicated to busting meth labs. But he says the issue isn't going away.

"It's not getting any smaller and with the one pots out there it's not getting any better," said Cochran.

Right now, the Meth Task Force supplements Tennessee counties with equipment and training to fight meth use, but without additional federal funding this year, the Meth Task Force will be dissolved, placing those costs on local sheriff's offices in 2014.

Farmer says the average law enforcement department must spend about $500 to clean up the immediate contamination resulting from meth lab. Cochran says for his department, it's more like $1,500.

But there are much greater long term expenses. The property owner is ultimately responsible for paying to rehabilitate a meth lab site. That can run anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000, said Farmer.

There are currently laws on the books that track people how much pseudoephedrine a person can buy, but Cochran says the rules are failing to cut down on meth incidents in his town.

He says he doubts they'll see any relief unless state lawmakers decide to step in and make pseudoephedrine available only by prescription.

Total, TBI says meth is costing Tennessee taxpayers more than $1 billion per year.

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