ELKHART — Indiana State Police are warning that roadside trash, now more apparent after a snowy winter, may include dangerously tainted remnants of meth cooking kits.
Police warn that items that look harmless from a distance, including 20-ounce soda bottles and new gasoline cans, could be associated with cooking meth and pose a safety hazard.
Tell-tale signs of meth-related materials include plastic bottles with granular substances inside or plastic containers modified with makeshift valves sticking out. Another item to be wary of is gas cans that appear to be new; these are sometimes used to make meth.
According to a report, Indiana is at the top of the list in the United States in the number of math labs being found.
The following are excerpts from an interview about meth with Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers:
Elkhart Truth: How much of factor has meth trash become in Elkhart County?
Rogers: “We get a couple calls a week. It’s more than it has been in the past. It used to be that we’d be concerned about going into houses and gearing up for that, but that’s pretty much gone by the wayside. Now we have it in vehicles, we have it in backpacks, we have it on the back of mopeds and … the trash.”
Elkhart Truth: What led to the downfall of big meth-making operations and the rise in popularity of one-pot systems that result in this trash?
Rogers: A couple of things. Law enforcement and the drying up of supply lines from Chicago and Detroit. Our drug task force did a good job with that. Our law enforcement officers are highly trained to identify and look for things like pre-cursors.
Also, it’s a cheaper way of doing it ... It’s for personal use.
Elkhart Truth: Are most personal meth labs still active when tossed from a car and onto a roadside?
Rogers: No. There may be some chemicals left, but it’s not live. It’s somewhat of a hazard and similar to an old junked car battery. But for liability reasons, we’re recommending to people, if they come across something like this, just leave it alone and call us and we’ll have the state police pick it up.”
Elkhart Truth: If these kits are being tossed out of cars along roadsides, what are the chances these people are intoxicated at the time of disposal? How difficult is it to drive while stoned on meth?
Rogers: Obviously, it’s a hazard. That’s why we’ve increased the training of DRE (drug recognition experts). It’s not just the smell of alcohol beverages we look for anymore. … If there’s no clear indication of alcohol, (officers) might start doing the DRE examination, which has to do with their eyes and balance and other things.
Elkhart Truth: Whom should somebody call if they suspect they have found meth trash?
Rogers: Call 9-1-1 if you find an active or trashed meth lab. We want to respond to it and tag it, and then we call ISP and make arrangements for them to pick it up.
Sometimes it’s a day or two before they pick it up. Some people have been annoyed by that. We put an orange hazard sticker on it and then they say, ‘You left it in our neighborhood.’
We can’t really take it to a squad car and take it to the jail or someplace where it’s going to cause a hazard for us.