Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tank Locks Help Curtail Meth Labs

State and federal officials claimed a major victory today in the battle against methamphetamine production in Iowa.
Law enforcement officials recently completed a project to install locks on tanks of anhydrous ammonia in all of Iowa's 99 counties.

An anhydrous ammonia tank lock was demonstrated today at a press conference with state officials in Des Moines. Tracy Gathman, general manager of Two Rivers Cooperative in Pella and a representative of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa locks up the tank.

Anhydrous ammonia is a farm fertilizer that is commonly distributed all across the state, but it also happens to be one of the chemicals needed to illegally manufacture methamphetamine.

County sheriffs in rural Iowa struggled for years with the problem, as thieves would steal the ammonia from farmers and agribusinesses. Then when they were finished with their clandestine labs, meth cooks would often dump their by-products in rural road ditches, leaving a toxic mess for Iowa taxpayers to clean up.
Those problems are now in decline, as statistics announced today show an 89 percent drop in the discovery of meth labs since 2004. Figures released today from the Iowa Department of Public Safety's Division of Narcotics Enforcement indicate that approximately 1,500 meth lab incidents were recorded in 2004. This year, the state is expecting that figure to drop to about 160.
The installment of nearly 24,000 tank locks on anhydrous ammonia tanks across the state was funded primarily through the Community Oriented Policing Services Meth Hot Spots program, money secured by Sen. Tom Harkin in his work on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Harkin said that while the tank locks have been an important tool in reducing meth lab activity in the state, it has been a coordinated series of steps including tank locks and other efforts that have stopped meth labs from operating in Iowa. "Locking up these tanks is a simple and inexpensive, yet critical and highly successful step in curbing the production of meth in our state," said Harkin.
Harkin also noted another successful meth-fighting strategy that can be credited to scientists at Iowa State University. Researchers have created a calcium-nitrate additive that is now being mixed with anhydrous ammonia, rendering the ammonia much less useful to meth cooks.
Add these efforts together with new controls on pseudoephedrine, another drug that is used in the meth-making process, and the result is far fewer meth labs in Iowa.
Harkin also emphasized the need to work to reduce the demand for methamphetamine through family- and jail-based drug treatment programs, specifically in underserved areas.
Harkin was joined today at the state capitol by Rep. Leonard Boswell, Lt. Gov. Patty Judge and other state officials in discussing the success of the crackdown on meth-making.
Boswell is the co-chair of the House Meth Caucus, a group that is working in Congress to find more solutions to the problems associated with methamphetamine.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey also applauded the efforts in Congress to secure funding for the tank lock program. "It's a voluntary program, but it takes dollars," said Northey. "It's so tough to make real progress, but this is real progress. As a farmer, I feel great about having a safer product out there."
Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Gene Meyer said that the reduction of meth labs has allowed resources to be diverted to other drug trafficking problems. Cleaning up a meth lab is an expensive and dangerous task. "For every pound of methamphetamine that is created, there are six pounds of toxic waste," said Meyer.
Lt. Gov. Judge said that Iowans are now safer thanks to the coordinated efforts of agriculture retailers and county sheriffs, and she thanked Harkin and Boswell for their work in Congress.

Iowa Independent visited with Monroe County Sheriff Dan Johnson, who has seen the meth problem grow throughout his years in law enforcement. "Yes, these programs have been very successful in stopping meth labs," said Johnson, adding that there has been a significant drop in the amount of meth labs found in Monroe County. He credits the controls on pseudoephedrine as being the most important step in curtailing meth production.


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Anonymous said...

Tell me.... How do you report a meth lab with children involved and find someone willing to listen and take action!!! DHS..is a joke, local police dept....maight get around to it! Who exactly is helping? who exactly can I call to get this out of my neighborhood? who exactly is going to take reports from good citizens who want to help? Nobody that I've called!! My stepdaughters biological mother is involved heavily in meth and luckily my husband was able to get his child away from her, although there are 2 other children that are in that house that nobody is willing to help(they are not my husbands children) and nobody is willing to file criminal charges against her. So tell me how does women like that get to work the system?

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