Meth lab seizures down, problem persists

By: Mario Boone Email
By: Mario Boone Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Meth lab seizures in Tennessee took a double-digit drop so far this year. Not because cops are winning the war on drugs, rather, they're losing the funding battle for expensive cleanups. As a result, some departments opting to soften their attack on meth investigations.

"They're not going to be as proactively, as aggressively seeking out these types of investigations," said Tommy Farmer, state Meth Task Force director.

It costs thousands to cleanup a single meth lab, a pricetag the federal government used to pay. Last year the DEA spent a whopping, "$4.5 million just in Tennessee alone," said Farmer.

When federal dollars dried up the burden shifted to local agencies like Sevier County Sheriff's Office. It has one of few meth response units in the area. Despite the funding cut, specially trained deputies in full protective gear still respond to meth labs.

"We didn't cease looking for them. If we found one we'd be obligated to make that seizure and arrest those people, no matter what the cost is," said Sheriff Ron Seals.

The TBI says another noticeable trend is shake-and-bake meth cooks moving into urban areas. This is due to easy access to pharmacies and so-called smurfs used to buy the ingredients needed to make meth. "We're talking homeless, the unwitting elderly, and college students," Farmer said.

"It may have grown so much in some of these areas that people decided to take it on their own and produce their own meth," Seals said.

In other words, the meth epidemic in Tennessee is far from over.

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