Essex County Board of Supervisors
Methamphetamine use is apparently on the rise in Essex County and is no longer unavoidable, District Attorney Kristy Sprague told the Board of Supervisors last month.
“A lot of people don’t think there’s meth here,” she said. “It’s here and we just have to know what to look for.”
To assist the county’s 18 supervisors in identifying, reporting and squashing use of the drug in their towns, the DA’s office will hold a two-hour training workshop on Monday, Feb. 24 at the Public Safety Building in Lewis.
Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting said the county’s Narcotics Task Force is seeing more signals of the, “single pot method,” of production in the county.
“We’ve seen a rise of this homemade, fairly simple to make procedure,” he said. “We don’t see a lot being produced for sale — it’s made for home use: inexpensive, made right at home and creates a very, very extremely addicting product, an insidiously addictive drug.”
Also known as, “shake and bake,” this method of producing “crank” essentially involves mixing store-bought chemicals together in a two-liter plastic soda bottle.
A single hit, said Cutting, can keep users going for days at a time.
A synthetic substance closely related to the FDA-regulated amphetamines, meth is a strong stimulant and is mainly manufactured in clandestine laboratories. It’s used primarily by working class folks and has steadily grown in popularity since emerging from its midwestern stronghold in the 1980s.
“This is not something that you’re going to buy,” Cutting said, explaining that it’s relatively cheap to make from over-the-counter ingredients like batteries and cleaning supplies.
The relatively simple manufacturing process means that the drug can easily be concocted by self-styled amateur chemists, a process prone to dangerous mishaps from the volatile chemicals and the alchemists’ disregard for safety procedures.
A 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office showed the number of clandestine meth incidents — when secret manufacturing operations resulted in injuries or structure fires — more than doubled in 2010 to some 15,000 after an all-time low of about 7,000.
Last year, according to DEA statistics, more than 11,000 incidents were reported, 147 of which were in New York State. Missouri, clocking in at the pole position, had 1,825.
In Tulsa County, Oklahoma, law enforcement officials identified 979 contaminated meth lab sites — the most of any county in the nation.
According to the same report, Essex County had two. Clinton County had five, Hamilton had one and the other counties within the Blue Line had zero.
Another of the county’s concerns is children, said Cutting.
While no current arrest statistics were readily available for Essex County, the DEA estimates at least 30 percent of domestic meth possession busts occur where children live or visit.
Cutting said county officials who deal with the public, including probation officers and case workers, should be familiar with the red flags that indicate production.
“We’re trying to tell those who check in on service recipients that if you see five cans of drain cleaner or too many instant cold packs, then those may raise some concerns,” said Cutting.
The upcoming workshop in Lewis, which is open to the public, will also discuss the specialized cleanup methods necessary after authorities seize assets related to meth production.
“Specialized crews have to come in and clean it up,” said Cutting.
“We trying to be ahead of it,” said Sprague. “We’re doing our best.”
About 40 people, mostly officials from the county’s department of social services, attended a similar workshop in Lewis last month.