Missouri still meth lab leader

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A decline in methamphetamine lab seizures in Missouri brought about by a pseudoephedrine law passed in 2006 began reversing itself during the last six months of 2007.

According to the latest meth lab seizure statistics provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, there were 1,285 lab seizures in Missouri during 2007, which is virtually the same as the 2006 total of 1,284 but a third of what the seizure totals were before the state law limiting pseudoephedrine sales passed.

"The first half of 2007 showed a continued downward trend, but the second half of the year indicated a rise in seizures," the Patrol reported in a press release dated Feb. 1. "This trend demonstrates that smurfing is occurring as the methamphetamine cooks become comfortable with the pseudoephedrine law.

"Smurfing" refers to the practice of going from pharmacy to pharmacy to purchase pseudoephedrine. Missouri state law limits the amount of drugs containing pseudoephedrine that an individual can buy and mandates that the buyer show an ID before making the purchase. These drugs are also kept behind the pharmacy counter.

Meth cooks are able to overcome these restrictions by visiting one pharmacy after another to purchase pseudoephedrine, which is the key ingredient used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Cooks also often hire people to do the drug buying for them.

The 2007 meth lab totals again place Missouri first in the country. Indiana is second with 620 meth lab seizures.

Locally, Barry County was the site of 12 meth lab seizures, which is considerably less than state-leading Jefferson County where 218 meth labs were busted. Jasper County reported 39 lab seizures in 2007, the most in southwest Missouri.

Meth lab totals for other neighboring counties were: McDonald County, nine; Lawrence County, 10; Stone County, 3; Taney County, 4; Newton County, 17; and Greene County, 21.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield is aimed at combating the practice of smurfing.

Champion's bill would require pharmacies to begin keeping an electronic log of who buys pseudoephedrine, which would help law enforcement officials find those individuals who are buying pseudoephedrine from multiple pharmacies. Currently, pharmacies keep only paper records of the purchases.

Other drug statistics

In addition to releasing end-of-year meth lab totals, the Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control, directed by Captain Luke Vislay, has issued its 2007 criminal investigation enforcement statistics.

During 2007, the Division of Drug and Crime Control employed 90 law enforcement officers who were called upon to conduct a wide range of criminal investigations across the state of Missouri. These officers assist city, county and federal agencies with their crime investigations.

The 2007 totals are as follows: death/homicide, 194; drug/narcotics, 3,024; polygraph examinations, 376; auto theft, 23,727; organized crime, 337; Missouri Information Analysis Center intelligence requests, 63,079; explosives investigations, 45; computer crimes, 81; missing persons, 12,537; Amber alerts, 5; Violent Crimes Support Unit activations, 7; special investigations, 74; financial/accounting, 15; sex crimes, 112; stealing/fraud, 170; burglary, 29; other criminal investigations, 249; public presentations, 70; and mental health reviews, 1,044.

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