08/24/09 — New meth production technique hits Wayne

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New meth production technique hits Wayne

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 24, 2009 1:59 PM

Whether they call it "shake 'n bake" or the "one-pot method," it is a new, simple and extremely dangerous way to make the illicit and toxic stimulant methamphetamine -- and it has already hit Wayne County.

Meth-makers could be riding around in a car, or sitting in a parking lot, producing the drug in as little as 40 minutes, drug enforcement officers say.

In Mount Olive, police Chief Ralph Schroeder's officers played a significant role this week in a roundup of 30 "smurfing" suspects -- a nickname given to the gathering of pseudoephedrine pills for meth cooks.

The legal cold medicine is one of the main ingredients in producing methamphetamine.

Although the raid targeted a different portion of the meth-using community, the portability of the "one-pot" meth-making method concerns him, Schroeder said.

"A lot of these meth people are riding around in mobile labs," he said. "They could be anywhere in any parking lot, on any block. If something were to go wrong while they're doing this ... you could have a real hazardous incident," the chief said.

"It could be in the parking lot of a grocery store, or a city street, and it worries you."

A member of the Wayne County Aggressive Criminal Enforcement Team, who asked not to be named for this story, said it is not uncommon to find remnants of "one-pot" methamphetamine littering roadways.

Wayne County Drug Squad Cpl. Chris Peedin was more explicit, saying the problem has already taken hold, mostly in the outlying areas of the county.

"I don't have any exact statistics or anything ... (but) it's kind of something that is starting to be predominant here in Wayne County," Peedin said.

What worries Peedin and other officers is that the new method requires little of the "smurfing" targeted by the Mount Olive police-based raid earlier this week.

"All this is dependent on how much pseudoephedrine they're using," Peedin said. "The bottle will only hold so much. Most of these one-pots are for personal use ... and can yield anywhere from one to five grams (of meth)," Peedin said.

One-pot meth manufacturers generally use the drug themselves or sell it to friends and acquaintances, he said.

But although less of the drug is made in small-scale one-pot methods, the method is also generally more dangerous than more traditional ways of making meth, he said.

Also, Peedin added, "Manufacturing is manufacturing."

New laws have put pseudoephedrine pills behind the pharmacy counter in North Carolina, requiring people to show identification to purchase them and setting limits on the amount a single person can buy within a month -- measures that law enforcement officers say have helped reduce the quantity of meth available on the streets

But those laws do little to stop "one-pot" meth makers, who generally produce a low yield of the drug. And their method of choice is considered perhaps "the most dangerous" way of making meth, drug squad officers said.

"It's extremely dangerous, because it's very volatile," Peedin said. "Solvents mixed in with lithium, mixed with water, and it's all in a plastic bottle that's under extreme pressure.

"If someone doesn't do the right things while they're doing it, it might not be an explosion like you would think, but maybe the sides of the plastic bottle will get weak and shoot out, maybe a bit like a flame-thrower," Peedin said.

Now that the "one-pot" method is known to Wayne County methamphetamine producers, citizens need to be warned about potential hazards, the corporal said.

Even after the meth "cooks" are done with the bottle, it's possible to start another chemical reaction in discarded two-liter soda bottles if they are picked up, the corporal said.

That could cause a person to breathe in dangerous fumes or even result in a pressure explosion if the discarded labs are disturbed, drug enforcement officers said.

"If you see anything with a tube sticking out of it, definitely call your local law enforcement agency, and stay the heck away from it," Peedin said.