A West Virginia State Police investigation into methamphetamine production in the southern part of the state found both active labs and abandoned “meth dumps” full of toxic contaminants.
“We wanted to know how bad the problem was outside of the Kanawha Valley,” said First Sgt. Michael Baylous of the Charleston detachment.
“What we found was there were quite a few in the month period of time (of the investigation). It’s more widespread than we thought.”
One of the difficulties in policing meth production is the rise of mobile sites, known in the police vernacular as “one pot” labs. These can be in the woods, a van or anywhere. And the meth dumps left behind are a toxic menace to anyone coming into contact with them.
We can’t say we’re surprised to find another tentacle of the drug trade is growing in our region.
Rightly, we think, State Police are attempting to educate the public about the dangers not just from the terrible effects meth produces in people, but to the dangers of the chemicals and the production process.
“It’s unbelievable how toxic these chemicals are,” Baylous noted, adding that explosions are always a possibility when criminals are cooking meth.
Contamination from the meth labs doesn’t necessarily come from direct contact with the product. Just being in the vicinity of a meth cooker can be enough to affect human health.
“Sometimes their kids are exposed to it, they take it to school, and other kids are exposed to it.”
We’re not naïve enough to think worries about childrens’ health, even their own kids, is going to stop someone from cooking up methamphetamine. They’re probably too far gone for those type of concerns.
But it should motivate the rest of us to do what we can to put a stop to these labs wherever they are found.
West Virginia State Police lack the manpower to form a methamphetamine task force. But Baylous said the force is going to do what it can to address the problem.
The State Police isn’t the only law enforcement agency in southern West Virginia that is short of resources. County sheriffs’ offices and city police forces, likewise, face the frustration of dealing with an increasingly more complex drug mosaic in the region.
Too often, even those of us who are not part of law enforcement are tempted to throw up our hands and say southern West Virginia’s drug problem can’t be solved.
We think that would be a mistake.
What police need are more eyes. That’s where the rest of us can get involved. Each of us can help in this fight by reporting a suspected meth lab to authorities.
So we’ll start. To report a suspected meth lab, call:
- Crime Stoppers of Raleigh County (they will forward to other counties): 304-255-7867
- State Police, Beckley: 304-256-6700
- Fayette County Sheriff: 304-574-4304
- Greenbrier County Sheriff: 304-647-6634
- Monroe County Sheriff: 304-772-3018
- Nicholas County Sheriff: 304-872-7880
- Raleigh County Sheriff: 304-255-9300
- Summers County Sheriff: 304-466-7111
- Wyoming County Sheriff: 304-732-8000
We’re not doing it just for the kids of the meth cookers, worthy as that sentiment may be. It’s for our own kids as well.