Pubdate: Wed, 02 Feb 2000
Source: Deseret News (UT)
Copyright: 2000 Deseret News Publishing Corp.
Author: Amy Joi Bryson, Deseret News staff writer


Grandma might be baking cookies in the kitchen, but her neighbor down the
street is cooking meth in the basement.

Even if you don't think meth is a problem in your neighborhood, chances are
the people addicted to it are breaking into homes in the good neighborhoods
to support their habit.

Utah's proliferation with meth labs earned it the No. 1 spot in the country
for labs per capita in 1998, and the problem didn't diminish in 1999.

Law enforcement wants your ears and eyes and nose to help combat the

On Wednesday, "What's Cooking in Your Neighborhood?" had its official start
with an announcement spearheaded by the Utah Council for Crime Prevention.

The council is joining forces with the Salt Lake Police Department to
orchestrate a multimedia campaign enlisting the public's health in the
identification of meth labs.

"Clearly we have a meth problem, but we have had a lot of recent success
with the community," DEA spokesman Don Mendrala said. "We have had
neighbors, retail clerks, pharmacists and store managers -- these type of
folks are calling in tips and clues that we have been able to follow up on.
Community awareness has really helped us."

Officials hope to increase that community awareness by reaching out to
residents and urging them to come forward if they have suspicions of a meth
lab near their home or business.

The chances of finding one are becoming increasingly common, evidenced by
the Monday night simultaneous success of Salt Lake police officers.

A casual encounter between police and homeowners in the 100 West block of
Clinton Avenue (640 North) revealed the surprise discovery of a meth lab in
a house there, and officers serving a warrant at 105 S. 1200 East found
equipment to make three labs. Both busts happened at 7:30 p.m.

"We would rather have people call and have us follow it up, rather than have
them ignore it," Mendrala said. "These things can blow up. They are a menace
in the neighborhoods."

Mendrala said people should rely foremost on their noses to sniff out
potential meth labs in their neighborhood.

"As lame as it sounds, it is a chemical smell," Mendrala said. "It is not a
smell you'd typically smell in your neighborhood."

Law enforcement has spent much of the past several years educating merchants
about the sale of precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of meth,
making it harder for local manufacturers to get their hands on the necessary

While Mendrala says there have been successes by going after local cooks,
those triumphs do nothing to diminish the direct pipeline of meth swamping
the Wasatch Front from other countries.

"With that pipeline to some of the source countries, it is going to show up
faster, show up cheaper and show up with greater potency," Mendrala said.
"That's a problem."

Utah law enforcement, in fact, has identified meth as its most pressing
crime problem in a survey completed last year on behalf of the Utah Criminal
and Juvenile Justice Commission.

Some 167 completed surveys representing 84 percent of Utah's population
listed the production of meth, its sale, regulation of precursors and
decontamination of meth labs as agencies' most rampant criminal dilemma.

Information compiled by the commission and released in the first installment
of Utah's Crime Reduction Plan indicates the state has seen an increase of
more than 700 percent in meth arrest rates from 1988 to 1998.

That figure doesn't surprise Mendrala.

"Back in 1988 nobody even talked about meth."

Now, it's the buzzword in criminal justice circles, as law enforcement
continues to throw more resources at the problem.

"It always comes down to manpower and money," he said.

Mendrala said part of that decade-long skyrocketing increase in arrest rates
can be contributed to a concerted, cooperative effort by law enforcement to
meet the meth problem head on.

"Law enforcement has become more aggressive. In Utah, we've seen a
tremendous cooperative effort. We've realized by opening the communications
with each and sharing intelligence, it simply has to be done to be
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MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk