Methamphetamine, also called “meth,” “crystal” or “crank,” is a drug that is manufactured and used throughout the state of Washington and has been found here on the Peninsula. Community awareness and education is vital. Recently, Jesse White, president of Horseshoe Lake Estates HOA and member of the Key Peninsula Crime Task Force, suspected the existence of a meth lab in his neighborhood and took action. As a result of his efforts and with the support of the community task force, he filed a code violation complaint. This resulted in the arrest of four people who were found to be “cooking” meth in a detached shed behind a residence. White said, “Thirty percent of the residents living here are single mothers who don’t feel safe. I am not going to give up. If you are cooking, selling or using drugs in our neighborhood, we are going to get you.”

Meth education forum
The Key Peninsula Crime Task Force plans are to target prevention, education, and offer treatment programs to combat the meth problems locally.
A forum on April 2 will address the topic, “Is Meth Cooking in Your Neighborhood.” Speakers include Lt. Larry Bauer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Peninsula Detachment, Ron Evans, with the county sheriff’s Crime Prevention Unit, and others, and topics will include recognizing meth labs, parent education, the connection between meth and identity theft, and more. Several informational booths will be displayed. The forum will be at the Key Peninsula Middle School, 5510 Key Peninsula Highway North, from 8:30 to noon. For information, call 884-7899.

The chemicals used in the production of meth, as well as the airborne toxins they cause, will permeate into floors, walls, carpets, furniture and any area they come in contact with. It takes an average of $20,000 to $30,000 to complete a cleanup of a meth lab, according to the Koch Crime Institute and the state health department. White stated that the cleanup team was there for 12 hours to secure the site. The county health department was primarily responsible for the cleanup, and checking for contamination.

Dennis Taylor, community mobilization specialist for Safe Streets, heads the Key Peninsula Crime Task Force and has implemented many programs to help protect and inform the community of the existing methamphetamine problems.

“For every one successful meth lab finding, there are most likely six more yet to be found or in operation,” he said, joking that “Jesse White should be cloned” because “he took all of the necessary steps to ensure the safety of his neighbors.”

When asked about the growing concerns of existing meth problems here, Lt. Larry Bauer, who heads the Peninsula Detachment of Pierce County Sheriffs’ Department, said, “The reallocation of manpower now provides 24-hour coverage on the Peninsula, which should prove to be some relief to the residents. The department will be utilizing updated technology to access localized trend analysis.”

It is important to be aware of the dangers of a meth lab in your area. It is estimated that making one pound of meth creates five to 10 pounds of contaminated waste. Large amounts of this waste can be piled up in the yard. Even more may be poured down the drain, or left to leak into the back yard, the lot next-door or other areas in the community used for dumpsites.

After a meth lab is discovered, local law enforcement, in conjunction with the health department, must test or swab for any further contamination. Never touch a suspected meth lab, whether it is in an abandoned vehicle or in a building.

Signs of a meth lab in your neighborhood may include some or all of the following:
Frequent visitors at all times of the day or night.
Increased traffic.
A strong chemical odor or “cat urine” smell.
Residences with windows blacked out or curtains always drawn.
Collection of excessive and unusual trash such as chemical bottles, hoses and pressurized cylinders.
Evidence of chemical or waste dumping (i.e. burn pits, or “dead spots” in the yard).

If you suspect a meth lab or want further information on the signs of an illegal methamphetamine operation, call the toll-free meth hotline at 1-888-609- 6384, or Safe Streets Campaign’s’ Key Peninsula satellite office at 884-7899.

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