We all know what it's like to step outside on a beautiful summer evening, take a deep breath and think out loud: "Mmm, somebody must be having a barbecue!" For some Washington County residents, however, the neighborhood aroma may not be quite so appealing. Clandestine methamphetamine labs are often found in residential areas and can be set up anywhere from the backyard to the bathroom. That "chemical odor" on the breeze could mean that meth is on the menu in your neighborhood and could be substances like ether, ammonia, acetone, or propane. Other common tell-tale signs can appear in the trash: large amounts of antifreeze containers, lantern fuel cans, red chemically-stained coffee filters, drain cleaner, and empty boxes of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.
According to detectives with the Washington County Westside Interagency Narcotics (WIN) Team, methamphetamine has become the most popular and problematic drug facing our community. Although the effects of meth are similar to cocaine - a supercharged jolt of energy and pleasure - the high is longer lasting and the drug itself is much easier and cheaper to produce than cocaine. As meth begins to take over the user's life, it is extremely common for them to be involved in mail theft, check forgery, credit card fraud, and identity theft to generate the cash they need to support their habit.
The environmental and health impact of these labs may never be fully known. For every pound of meth produced, there are six to eight pounds of toxic waste generated. These toxic chemicals are found dumped in neighborhoods as well as rural areas and can contaminate everything from motel rooms to wetlands. It will take a concerted community effort to adequately address this problem in the months and years ahead. Citizens can be part of the solution by being alert to signs of drug dealing or methamphetamine manufacture. If several of the following signs seem to be associated with a particular property, we encourage you to report your observations (one or two by themselves are not necessarily cause for concern):
Frequent visitors at all hours, especially late at night.
Unfriendly residents who appear secretive about their activities.
Paranoid or odd behavior or extensive security.
Windows blacked out or curtains always drawn.
Unemployed, yet seem to have plenty of money (cash).
Coming outside to smoke cigarettes.
Lots of trash and debris lying around.
Chemical odors coming from their house, garbage, or outbuildings.
Garbage frequently has numerous containers as mentioned above.
To report these or other suspicious behaviors, please call the Washington County Sheriff's Office non-emergency number, (503) 629-0111, or contact the WIN Team at (503) 846-5650. Those who wish to remain anonymous may do so.
More information and tools available to help you combat meth can be found on our Crystal Misery Program page, including printable posters, treatment resources, and how to order our video.