Pubdate: Mon, 05 Jun 2000
Source: Texarkana Gazette (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Texarkana Gazette
Contact:  P.O. Box 621, Texarkana Texas 75504
Author: Lori Dunn


Drug Dealers Crank Out Masses Of Meth

It's found in Bowie County bathtubs, Miller County motel rooms, the
trunks of cars-and the hands of children.

It's easy to make-easier to sell-and hard to eliminate.

The manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine-also called
"meth," "speed," and "crank"- has skyrocketed in Texarkana and
surrounding counties in recent years.

"It's fast cash and you don't have to be a brain surgeon to make it.
Somebody we arrested told me, "I can't fry bacon but I can make good
dope,'" said Capt.Toby Giles, chief deputy for the Miller County
Sheriff's Department.

One narcotics officer describes the spread of methamphetamine in the
Texarkana area as epidemic.

"It's in the middle of hay fields, it's in town, it's all over," said
Tommy Davlin of the Bowie County Sheriff's Department.

"It's becoming our No. 1 problem. The increase of it, the
manufacturing of it, the cleanup, the thefts ... it's becoming more of
a problem than crack cocaine," said Texarkana Ark., Police Chief Bob

It's almost a full-time job for law enforcement officers to try to
find and destroy the methamphetamine labs.

"We've made a small dent but we have not scratched the surface,"
Davlin said.

The short amount of time it takes to cook meth sometimes hinders law
enforcement from catching suspects in the act.

"By the time we find out they are cooking it and get a warrant they
are through with the process," said Les Moody, an investigator with
the Bi-State Narcotics Task Force.

Meth cooks inside the city limits often rent motel rooms to mix up a
batch of the illegal substance, Moody said.

"They will rent motel rooms and use one to cook in and one to sell out
of," Moody said.

"It's most common in motel rooms but I've seen it packed in backpacks
where all they have to do is take it in the woods, build a fire and be
in business," Moody said.

Older cooks use larger labs, primarily bathtubs, Moody

"It's an 18- to 36-hour cook time but that's what they know and that's
what they trust," he said.

Though meth is more common than it used to be, it is not a new

"It's been a problem for about 20 years but it has steadily increased.
There is always a new method to make it. You don't have to be a
chemist, you can get all the ingredients at Wal-Mart except for the
anhydrous ammonia," Giles said.

The lack of anhydrous ammonia on the store shelves does not keep meth
cooks from acquiring it, though.

They just steal it.

"Anhydrous ammonia is harder to come by. We're seeing more and more
thefts," Moody said.

Meth sells for anywhere from $25 for a quarter of a gram to $100 for a

"They make money because they cut it, they take an ounce and by the
time they get through with it they have 2 or 3 ounces. "Stepping on
it' is an oldtime slang for cutting," Giles said.

Meth can be injected, smoked, snorted or taken orally. Most meth
addicts in this area shoot up, Moody said.

Meth users experience a lot of paranoia along with extreme elation,
wakefulness, alertness, enhanced self-confidence, aggression,
talkativeness, loss of appetite, increased initiative and increased
physical activity.

They basically don't go to sleep until they come down from their

"You stay up for days if it's good dope" Giles said.

Withdrawal symptoms include severe craving, deep depression, fatigue
and more paranoia.

But what is methamphetamine? Where does it come from?

Methamphetamine is a purely synthetic central-nervous-system stimulant
of the amphetamine family. Amphetamines were synthesized in the late
19th century by a German scientist. The synthesis of meth is
attributed to a Japanese chemist in 1919.

Japan was also the first country to experience a meth epidemic. It
began during World War II when factory workers were encouraged to take
the stimulant so they could produce more products.

During the 1950s, large amounts of amphetamines-also called Bennies or
pep pills-were produced in the United States. Prescriptions were
required for the pills, which were taken to treat everything from
obesity to depression.

In the mid-1960s the use of amphetamines and meth was restricted under
the Drug Abuse Control Act. Drug companies took narcotics off the
market and as result of the vacuum, illegal crystal methamphetamine
labs began to spring up in the San Francisco Bay area.

But by the 1980s methamphetamine had spread to Middle America. Meth
was cheaper than cocaine and it was plentiful. The drug began to be
produced in crude labs and has steadily increased.

Labs can be found in homes, storage buildings and even

"The method is still crude but the people are getting more elaborate.
We're seeing more surveillance cameras and booby traps at labs. They
almost always have guns and knives," Giles said.

As a result of the increase in labs, Miller County has started its own
drug task force.

Three deputies work it full time and make between 10 and 12 arrests a
month, Giles said.

"We're underarmed but we're making a good dent in it. They are doing
the work of six people and we need more manpower and more money," Giles said.

The formation of the Miller County task force left the Bi-State
Narcotics Task Force short of manpower also. Miller County used to be
a part of the Bi-State group.

The task force, made up of both Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Ark.,
officers includes eight investigators and one captain.

The task force has arrested 14 methamphetamine suspects since
April 1999, said Capt. Jim Reed. There were 17 methamphetamine-related
arrests in the entire year of 1999. The numbers have increased since
1995 when only six suspects were arrested for maunfacturing meth, Reed

There were 10 arrests in 1998, 18 in 1997 and 17 in 1996, according to
task force records.

Since 1995, the task force has confiscated 9.7 pounds of meth, with a
street value of $584,840, Reed said.

The Bowie County Narcotics Task Force has arrested 18 suspects on meth
charges in the last year, said Chief Deputy Ed Leathers. There were 16
arrests in 1998 and 10 each for 1997 and 1996, Leathers said. No
numbers were available for 1995.

In Miller County, arrests in 1999 averaged about 100. That was a sharp
increase from the previous years of 1995 through 1998 where there were
only between 12 and 20 arrests each year.

The increase in meth labs is not just a local problem but a statewide

Arkansas led the nation last year in per capita meth lab seizures,
with 554 seized in 1999. During the first three months of 2000, 197
labs were seized in the state.

According to Arkansas State Police data, only six methamphetamine labs
were found statewide in 1994. The number climbed to 24 in 1995, 95 in
1996 and then escalated to 242 in 1997. It almost doubled in 1998,
with 433 labs.

If the current trend continues, officials are expecting about 700 labs
this year.

Giles believes that if local officials don't start fighting the war
against methampehtamine now, the widespread use of the drug could lead
to more problems in the future.

"I see it as a threat to world security because of what it's doing to
the youth," Giles said.

Needles lying on tables and razorblades lying on the floor are common
discoveries in meth labs and the homes of suspects, Moody said. Even
homes where children crawl among the debris.

"Children are going to follow the lead of the environment they are in.
If that's that what they see, that's the way they are going to go,"
Moody said.

Investigators are not hopeful that meth use will decrease anytime

"It's out of control ... I believe it's here to stay," Moody

*Slowing down speeders*

Methamphetamine arrests

1996 1997 1998 1999

Bi-State Task Force 17 18 10 14

Bowie County Task Force 10 10 16 18

Miller County Task Force 12 15 18 100

Labs found

Arkansas 95 242 433 554

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MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson