As drug abuse spreads throughout our country and reaches every segment of society, meth labs are becoming an increasing problem. City-dwellers might dismiss these labs as a rural problem, but in reality, meth labs are found in apartments and motel rooms as well as in the suburbs, isolated homes and farmlands. A meth lab requires no more room than a trailer or even the canopy area of a large pickup truck.
It is already far too sad that many lives are destroyed through crystal meth abuse. Unfortunately, this abuse affects far more people than the many who suffer the addiction; for all those who live in its vicinity, a meth lab poses not only a risk to their personal health, but also risk of property damage due to fire and explosion. And, as much of the toxic waste of meth labs is dumped illegally in public lands, we all suffer. Thankfully, if we can recognize the telltale signs of a meth lab in our midst, we can report it to the police and slowly fight the spread of these destructive operations.
Knowing how to recognize a meth lab can help stop drug trafficking in your neighborhood. Having a good neighborhood watch system in place is imperative in all neighborhoods these days. If neighbors pay close attention, they should be able to spot garbage items that are ingredients to make crystal meth and then contact the authorities to take over from there. Here are more tips to determine if a meth lab is in your neighborhood:
- Strong, unpleasant smells. Anyone who has ever owned a cat will recognize the acrid smell of ammonia. If you notice a "cat urine" smell strongly emanating from a nearby building, or notice any other strong chemical smells, it's unlikely that cats are to blame - especially if any of the following observations coincide with the smell.
- Deliberate attempts to prevent anyone from seeing inside the building. Often the questionable building either has no windows or, more suspiciously, the windows are covered somehow.
- Lots of traffic. A meth lab will have many frequent, brief visits at strange hours of the day, often at night in the hopes that all neighbors are asleep.
- Copious quantities of garbage. Meth ingredients obviously involve chemicals. A meth labs uses lots of laboratory chemicals like stove fuel, white gasoline, ammonia, propane tanks, paint thinner and antifreeze, not to mention cold and diet pills. And other labratory supplies involve equipment like glass containers and tubing is always in use. If your neighbor is careless enough to leave all of the empty containers out on the curb for garbage pickup, then the sheer quantity of trash should make you suspicious. But you should never inspect the garbage yourself; meth lab equipment and waste are extremely hazardous. It's far more likely that your neighbor will never leave the garbage out at the curb for pickup, but instead always ship the garbage elsewhere so as to avoid detection.
- Secrecy. Whether in an apartment or a house, your neighbor will likely want nothing to do with you. If you've tried to interact with your neighbor, but always found yourself talking through a closed or barely cracked door (and notice any other strange activity or smells), the neighbor may be hiding a meth lab from you. However, you must never approach a building or residence where you already suspect meth cooking. Not only might the lab explode, but also the toxic fumes of a meth lab can kill a person.
- Rent paid in cash. If you're a landlord, a tenant running a meth lab would almost certainly pay rent in cash.
- All this, and then nothing. When people know they are making meth, the cookers often abandon their meth labs, but that hardly means you and other neighbors can breathe a sigh of relief yet. An abandoned meth lab is still a toxic environment containing hazardous, volatile waste. Report such a building to local law enforcement.
Although the majority of meth is actually produced in a small number of gigantic labs run by Mexican drug cartels, the sheer number of residential meth labs makes it all the more important for the public to become familiar with the signs of meth production. For the sake of our local environment, our health and those who are addicted to meth, we must report suspected meth labs to local law enforcement.