Pubdate: Fri, 01 Dec 2000
Source: Waco Tribune-Herald (TX)
Author: Mike Anderson, Tribune-Herald staff writer


Authorities have arrested two people in connection with a fire
September in a suspected methamphetamine lab in a rural Bosque County
trailer park.

Production and distribution of illegal drugs has been a growing
problem in the small towns and rural areas of Central Texas. Rural law
enforcement officials are increasingly finding themselves tackling
what has traditionally been thought of as an urban problem.

This week's arrests are the latest in a series connected to suspected
meth labs in Bosque County.

Fort Worth police officers Thursday arrested Patrick Wayne Price, 29,
of the Bosque County community of Kopperl, a Tarrant County Sheriff's
Department spokesman said. On Tuesday officers in nearby Haltom City
arrested Carolyn Hilton Albreight, 41 also of Kopperl, he said. Both
were charged with felony firearm possession and possession of a
controlled substance, he said.

Bosque County Chief Deputy Coy Jones said the two are suspected of
operating a meth lab in a trailer near Lake Whitney. On Sept. 10 a
fire destroyed the trailer, and investigators discovered evidence
indicating a drug lab may have been operating there.

Albreight was transferred to the Bosque County Jail, where she waited
Thursday for a judge to set her bond, Jones said. Price remained in
Tarrant County Thursday night, Jones said, but he was expected to be
transferred to Bosque County. Jones said the investigation continues,
and officers could make more arrests.

Jones said officers have found eight meth labs in Bosque County so far
this year. He said dealers are choosing the area because it allows
them to operate their labs with a low risk of detection but within 30
minutes of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The labs aren't just confined to Bosque County. Bob Wilkerson,
Commander of the Agriplex Drug Task Force, said drug labs are popping
up all over Central Texas. The Waco-based task force, which brings
together sheriff's departments and police forces in Bosque, Hill,
McLennan, Falls and Freestone counties, has investigated 22 meth labs
this year, he said.

In Hill County, Hubbard police Chief Mitch Tyra said he has not raided
any labs this year, but he thinks they are out there because local
farmers are frequently reporting theft of the fertilizer anhydrous
ammonia, an ingredient used in the manufacturing process.

Tyra said most drug arrests in Hubbard are for possession of crack
cocaine. Tyra, who previously worked for the McLennan County Sheriff's
Department, said he was surprised by the amount of drug activity in a
town with a population of less than 2,000.

"I thought I was going to come out to Hubbard and it was going to be
like in Mayberry RFD," he said. "Come to find out I have had to work a
lot harder than I thought I would.

"We have a small sheriff's department and a small police department. I
guess the biggest resource we don't have is manpower. In (Waco) you
can get on the radio when you need backup right away, and get it. Out
here we only have a few people who can respond. It's my opinion that
the criminal element understands that as much as I do. So they see
there is great opportunity to work out here without hassle from police."

J.J. Anastasio, chief deputy for the Falls County Sheriff's
Department, said police departments in many small towns have found it
to their advantage to sign on with the task force. He pointed to
Marlin as a good example.

"You have a limited budget here," he said. "Are you going to kill a
patrol slot to have an officer work undercover narcotics, when you
could have (the task force) provide hundreds of narcotics officers? If
a community this small did this he would only be good one time. The
first time he showed up in court they would know who he is. He would
be burned."

Law enforcement officials said safety is a big concern when dealing
with narcotics cases. Wilkerson said meth labs are especially
hazardous because they use explosive chemicals and produce toxic gasses.

During a recent raid by a task force on a lab in Limestone County, a
suspect allegedly tried to take an officer's gun. The man was shot in
the ensuing struggle.

Hearne Police Sgt. Brandon Mulkey said he has gone on a number of
raids with an area task force. He said where narcotics are concerned,
safety is always on his mind.

"It goes through my mind every morning when I wake up," he said. "This
is a dangerous business. Most of my officers wear their safety vests
everyday as part of their uniform."
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