TN meth lab seizures down 52% for 2014

(WBIR) While there is an increase in methamphetamine being smuggled across the border, according to the Tennessee Meth Task Force, the number of meth labs seized in the state in the first quarter of 2014 is down 52% from this time last year.

Tom Farmer, with the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, said between January and March of 2014, 290 meth labs were seized. In the first quarter of 2013, 612 meth labs were seized.

"It's definitely significant, and we're encouraged by that. We hope that this trend stays down," said Farmer.

Farmer attributed the decrease to several factors, including increased enforcement.

"It began with Anderson County, with federal prosecution, with federal indictments that went out on 50-plus individuals so we had increased enforcement that just didn't occur in the Eastern District," said Farmer. "And that spread statewide out West."

Farmer also cited local ordinances passed by communities who now require a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient to make meth.

"17 cities across the state that started passing ordinances, city ordinances, further restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine in their cities.," said Farmer. "That trend stopped when the Attorney General released the opinion, but the cities have still upheld their laws and many of them recorded a decrease in lab seizures between 44 and 70%, so that has continued and rolled over into the statewide numbers."

In March, 10News reported Anderson County topped the state rankings for 2013 meth lab busts.

First quarter numbers for 2014 show Anderson and Roane County had the second highest number of seizures, with 10 meth lab busts, and Monroe County ranked 1st with the highest number, 14 meth lab seizures.

"You build a better mouse trap, you're going to make smarter mice. And so we have to constantly stay on top of this and find ways," said Farmer.

Farmer said the bill that significantly lowers the amount of pseudoephedrine consumers can buy per month and per year could help keep 2014 numbers down.

"For sure it's going to have an impact. We just don't know what level," said Farmer. "Only time will tell, but we are definitely optimistic that we are going to have an impact, one way or the other, and we don't have a choice; we have to continue."

Farmer said while lab seizures are down, Tennessee has seen an increase in the availability and investigations related to Mexican methamphetamine.

"It's crystal meth. So it's the finished product making it's way here. But manufacturing process is going to be a little bit different because Mexico has banned pseudoephedrine products in their country," said Farmer.

Farmer said while trafficking the drug into Tennessee is a major problem, it is less expensive and dangerous than a meth lab.

"We don't have the health issues related to fires and explosions, we don't have the children that are injured, and we don't have the strain on law enforcement to dismantle and process and adulterate these meth labs," explained Farmer. "So the plus is that the finished product doesn't require dangerous and expensive clean-up."

Statistics from the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force showed the average meth lab produced seven pounds of waste.

In the first quarter of 2013, officials seized 21,050 pounds of meth lab waste. That number dropped significantly to 4,098 pounds, about the weight of the average great white shark or full size truck, for the first quarter of 2014.

Farmer said in total, 1,811 meth labs were seized in 2011, compared to 1685 in 2013. He said the nearly 7% drop is different than a 2013 crime statistics report released by the TBI, which showed an 11.6% increase in meth labs, because that report included all meth lab incidents, not just seizures.


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