Meth-related incidents in Barry County have remained steady while Missouri continues to lead the nation in meth production, according to 2012 Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force statistics released by Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly this past week.
John Luckey, agent with the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force, reported that Barry County's numbers last year remained close to those of 2011. As of October 2012, a total of 1,718 methamphetamine incidents were reported in the state, with Barry County logging 37 of those reports and McDonald County totaling 23.
For the January through December 2011, 2,096 meth-related incidents were reported across the state, with Barry County weighing in with 42 reports and McDonald County totaling 43.
In Lawrence County, a total of 15 meth-related incidents were reported as of September, compared to 35 in 2011. Lawrence County no longer has a dedicated drug officer to work those types of crimes.
Luckey said the task force worked a total of 150 cases and made 66 arrests. Data broken down by county is as follows: Barry County, 86 cases and 34 arrests; McDonald County, 53 cases and 26 arrests; Lawrence County, 10 cases and six arrests; and Dade County, one case.
"We have a skeleton crew of three guys who put together 79 cases this year," Luckey said. "They also do report-writing, grant-writing and quarterly reports. I'm pretty proud of the job they have done."
The total number of meth labs seized by the task force in 2012 was 79, with a total of 9.55 grams of meth seized. By county, the numbers were: Barry County labs 45, amount of meth seized, 2.75 grams; McDonald County, 29 labs and 6.3 grams of product seized; Lawrence County, four labs and .5 grams of product seized; and Dade County, one lab seized.
Missouri ranks #1 in the nation for methamphetamine production, with Barry and McDonald counties taking the #7 slot in the state for 2012.
"There's more out there than we're able to confiscate," Luckey said. "The demand for the drug is so high, and it's so physically addictive nothing else motivates users. It takes over their lives."
Luckey said the most common method of meth production in the area was the "one pot" or "shake and bake" method, which is harder to locate than the former "cook" labs set up in homes, garages or motel rooms.
"Shake and bake labs are taking over the area," Luckey said. "We are now seeing a lot of pill sales coming here (Barry County) from McDonald County, because they require a prescription now. They are driving carloads of people here at one time and buying the maximum amount of pills they can."
In 2012, task force officers also confiscated 6.14 pounds of marijuana and 108 plants. By county, the totals are: Barry County, 142 grams of marijuana and 87 plants; McDonald County, 239 grams of marijuana and 21 plants; and Lawrence County, 5.3 pounds.
Heroin is starting to make a comeback in southwest Missouri. Popular for recreational use in the 1960s and 1970s, heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine. Much like meth, it affects the brain's pleasure systems. A total of four hits were seized last year in McDonald County.
Abuse of synthetic drugs, marketed as "legal marijuana" under names such as K-2, Spice, Space Truckin', Moon Rocks and Sky High, and bath salts, marketed as Bliss, Blue Silk, Cosmic Blast, Raving Dragon and Ivory Snow, are also making a huge impact in the area.
Officers with the task force seized 10,358 units, totaling over $175,500 in 2012. In Barry County, 2,325 units were confiscated, while in McDonald County, a total of 8,033 units were confiscated.
Officers also seized a total of 90 pseudoephedrine pills in 2012, along with 1,485 other types of pills. In Barry County, 80 pseudo pills were seized and 455 other pills; in McDonald County, 10 pseudo pills were confiscated, along with 1,020 other kinds of pills; and in Lawrence County, 10 pills were seized.
In addition, task force officers confiscated six weapons, $9,497.91 in currency and served 13 search warrants for 2012. Officers conducted 63 "knock and talks" and made six traffic stops.