Breaking Up A Meth Lab

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UPDATE 7/22/2012 5:29 PM

"In late 1990's and early 2000's our task force was on the forefront and highly recognized in regards their battle and success against meth," explains Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department. "We had a real epidemic here in the Valley at that time."

Sergeant Collins says recent intelligence suggests the number of meth labs in the area could be on the rise once again.

The process of breaking up the lab is far more complicated than knocking on the door with a warrant. Investigations into suspected cooking rings can take months. When enough evidence is gathered to secure a warrant- officials are then tasked with collecting physical evidence.

"From our standpoint there's a lot of tactical planning and a lot of thought that goes into how are we going to handle this," Sgt. Collins explains. "Are there children inside? What are we going to do? If we encounter this... don't touch A, B and C. Get the windows open. So, a lot of things go into it and it's a dangerous situation."

Made even more dangerous depending on what stage of the cook the operation is in when the police arrive.

"When meth is being cooked, and officers enter that environment, it's dangerous because you don't want to make it unstable," Sgt Collins adds. "You need to keep it consistent. So you don't want to be messing with the heat up or down. It's volatile enough to where you have to be careful about deploying any kind of tactical dive that has a fire."

The drug posses such a threat to the community law enforcement officials are committed to making sure they bust as many drug labs as possible.

"What's going well: the pharmacies are calling us when they have suspicious pill buying activity. Neighbors are calling us when they have suspicious activity at the house. When they have suspicious smells," Sgt. Collins explains. "That's how we are going to be successful. That's how we'll win this."
A month long investigation puts four men behind bars on felony charges of operating or attempting to operate a clandestine drug lab.

Late Wednesday night the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force executed a search warrant at Rick Stull's Reed Street home. Inside the home police found drug paraphernalia including needles, smoking devices, foil, baggies and a heating element witnesses say is used to cook meth.

While police were processing the scene James Walters Jr. drove up to the house. Officials say Walters had a back pack full of chemicals used to make meth.

Not much later another vehicle pulled up to the house. Inside the car police interviewed Timothy Hughes and Landry Smith. Police say both men initially lied to officers about what they were doing at the home but later admitted they had to drop something off for Stull. When a back pack in their vehicle was searched police found chemicals and other items used to make meth.

Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department says meth used to be a huge problem in Parkersburg back in the 90's but it seems like the dangerous drug is taking hold once again.

"Meth appears to be making a come back," Sgt. Collins explains. "There's a lot of intelligence coming in according to the drug officers in the county. There's a lot of meth on the street which obviously indicates somebody is cooking it somewhere."

"The process of cooking is incredibly volatile. The environment is dangerous for everybody that's there," Sgt Collins adds. "It's dangerous for the cookers. It's dangerous for the law enforcement. I mean, it's nothing but bad."

Depending on the size of the operation meth labs can be dangerous for anyone living in a close proximity to the lab. Neighbors on Reed Street say they've known what was going on in the home for some time. One man (who does not wish to be identified) says his prayers were answered when the police showed up.

"It's excellent. Meth doesn't need to be in any area and the fact that there are children and plenty of good citizens and neighbors around here," the neighbor says. "We all stick together and we've all been working together to get rid of this problem. It's nice to see that action was finally taken."

Sergeant Collins says when the case is presented to a grand jury more charges will most likely follow.

Each of the 4 men arrested were given a $100,000 bond. None of them bonded out and are all at the North Central Regional Jail.

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