Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 3, 2013

Alarming increase: Nine meth labs in one month

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — We had been warned for years that methamphetamine laboratories were an emerging threat for the region. Those warnings were accurate. The meth threat has arrived in southern West Virginia and neighboring Southwest Virginia, and the threat appears to now be more widespread than initially thought.

In a span of less than one month, troopers with the West Virginia State Police have uncovered nine active methamphetamine laboratories and three “meth dumps” in southern West Virginia. A total of 32 arrests were made during the time period on methamphetamine-related charges.

First Sgt. Michael Baylous, of the Charleston detachment of the West Virginia State Police, says the raids were part of a state police effort that began Oct. 26 to discover how pervasive the methamphetamine problem is in the southern part of the Mountain State.

“We wanted to know how bad the problem was outside of the Kanawha Valley,” Baylous told the Register-Herald in Beckley. “What we found was there were quite a few in the month period of time. It’s more widespread than we thought.”

The news shouldn’t come as a surprise. A number of methamphetamine laboratories have already been discovered in our region in recent months, including recent investigations in both McDowell and Buchanan counties.

Troopers are finding that more of the methamphetamine labs are mobile labs that suspects can take from location to location, also called “one pot” or “shake-and-bake” labs, according to Baylous.

One of the by-products of a “one pot” lab is a “meth dump,” or a remnant of the lab that is left in the woods, in a home or at other locations, according to investigators.

The recent state police crackdown has netted methamphetamine laboratories, and the so-called meth dumps, also in Raleigh, Fayette and Greenbrier counties. That would suggest the problem has become more widespread and rampant across southern West Virginia, Baylous adds.

And he correctly points out that methamphetamine doesn’t just hurt addicts.

“Contamination comes from the meth labs and the people around them that take the chemicals out into the general public,” Baylous said. “Sometimes their kids are exposed to it, they take it to school, and other kids are exposed to it.

The fumes from meth labs are highly toxic, according to Baylous. He notes that explosions are also a possibility when meth is being made — adding to the overall highly dangerous situation.

Baylous says troopers are focusing more efforts on educating the public about safety issues related to methamphetamine. He says that abuse of the drug is not just a law enforcement problem, but a moral and social problem as well. He encourages community members to help by reporting suspected meth labs to police.

We agree. The meth problem is here. And it’s a significant threat to our region. All efforts must be made to combat and ultimately eradicate this now widespread threat.