Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 25, 2013

Growing threat

Spike in meth cases alarming

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The alarming rise in the number of highly dangerous meth labs being reported across the region merits attention and immediate action.

In just the last couple of months, the number of cases involving meth labs has seemingly doubled. Part of that increased awareness can be attributed to good police work in McDowell County where Sheriff Martin B. West and his deputies have made tracking down meth labs and those involved in this illegal activity a priority. The deputies have already located a number of meth labs in the county, and have made several corresponding arrests. They are doing an exceptional job with the available resources they have.

But as is the case with most illegal drug activity, those individuals who are creating the highly explosive meth labs are finding new ways to camouflage their actions. For example, just this past Monday officials in McDowell County stopped a vehicle in the Panther area and, during the course of their investigation, found a mobile methamphetamine lab actively operating in the front seat of the vehicle.

The suspect in the case — who was determined to be driving under the influence — was later able to get his hands, which were handcuff behind his back, to his front and steal a police cruiser while the deputy on scene was calling for back-up assistance. That led to a pursuit lasting nearly 30 minutes. Thankfully, a dangerous situation was averted without injury.

And in neighboring Tazewell County, three people were indicted just during the last term of the county’s grand jury on methamphetamine-related charges. Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hiaett reports that so far Virginia-side officials aren’t seeing large or elaborate meth labs, but instead smaller kits that are easier to discard. But whether big or small, meth labs are a significant problem.

The growing meth problem is an added woe to the region’s already rampant prescription drug abuse epidemic. Meth poses a potentially even greater health threat to the region because it presents an obvious hazard to children who are in homes where this drug is being manufactured. And it’s a threat that can be easily transported — as we just witnessed in McDowell County. This creates an obvious danger and risk to other motorists on the road.

Complicating matters is the fact that the chemicals used to manufacture meth are relatively easy to find and purchase. However, meth is highly volatile, and the manufacturing process can be deadly not only for those making the drug, but anyone who comes into contact with the site of a meth lab.

The ongoing crackdown on drug abuse is certainly worthy of applause, and must continue. The drug epidemic impacts almost every aspect of our life, including health care and education. And we are witnessing an increase in prostitution, property crimes and other undesirable criminal acts as a result of this scourge.

Now, we can add the arrival of meth labs to the already burgeoning drug problem.

That’s why we must act quickly to curb this emerging threat before it becomes more prevalent. This will take a combined effort of law enforcement, a concerned community and citizens who are willing to report suspicious activity in their neighborhoods and communities.