Methamphetamine is still a significant problem in Southwest Missouri even though the number of mom and pop meth labs has dropped sharply. Michele Skalicky reports.
Methamphetamine production used to be a huge problem in the Ozarks. In 2004, 2788 meth labs were seized in Missouri, making the state the number one state for lab seizures.
The highly addictive drug was manufactured in a large number of clandestine labs often referred to as "mom and pop" labs in barns, garages, along creek banks, in homes, in vehicles and anywhere those who wanted to make it could set up shop.
The labs produced large amounts of toxic waste along with the meth, and were a danger not only to the meth makers but also to their families, their neighbors, the police officers who busted the manufacturers and those who had to dismantle the labs.
In 2005, the Missouri legislature passed a measure putting products containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine—key ingredients in meth making—behind the counter. Since then, the number of mom and pop labs has sharply declined.
Jim Arnott is Greene County's Chief Deputy Sheriff
But just because the number of labs has dropped, doesn't mean meth is no longer a problem in SW MO. According to Arnott, meth use is on the rise, and users are getting much of their supply of drugs from south of the border
Arnott says there are several ways drug smugglers get their product across the border and into places like SW MO
About 30 miles west of Springfield is the small town of Aurora, Missouri
Like in most small towns, life is slow-paced here. Crime is low, but it was here a few months ago that local and federal authorities raided a two-story Victorian home in a quiet Aurora neighborhood that was being used as a receiving point for the crystallized form of meth called "ice" being shipped from Mexico.
Rick Batson is Police Chief in Aurora. He says they haven't yet seen an increase in violence due to the rise in drugs coming from large "superlabs" rather than mom and pop operations, but he says that's a possibility in the future
Jim Arnott says officials in Missouri are working to keep Mexican meth from reaching its destination. In Missouri, the state Highway Patrol does interdiction efforts on the main corridors
Rick Batson says there's no magic formula to keep the sales of meth in check. It's an issue of supply and demand
Batson says so far this year they've taken down one meth lab. They used to find 8 to 10 a year in the town with a population of just over 7000. Now, he says, they've shifted their attention somewhat from those mom and pop labs to trying to confiscate meth being brought from across the border
Tomorrow morning at 7:30 as KSMU's series on Methamphetamine continues, a story on the innocent victims of meth—children.