Meth lab busts up in state, down in Surry and Wilkes

Anthony Gonzalez Staff Reporter

January 11, 2014

A record number of arrests for meth labs have been recorded in North Carolina, but Surry County showed a drop in 2013.

Wilkes County still leads the state in number of meth labs which were busted.

State Bureau of Investigation agents responded to 561 meth labs in 2013, an increase from 460 labs found in 2012. Of those meth labs, 81 percent used the “one pot” method, portable labs which make small amounts of meth.

In Surry County, 16 meth labs were identified in 2012. Only 11 were located in 2013.

Wilkes recorded a record high 59 labs in 2012. Labs identified in 2013 dropped to 50.

State Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office is not sure if the reduction in meth lab arrests in Surry County is due to greater advocacy and techniques used by law enforcement, or if violators are going elsewhere.

“I will be glad to ask our meth lab experts if they are seeing any particular trends with Surry County or that part of the state. I would also suggest checking with your local sheriff,” said Noelle Talley, the public information officer for Cooper.

Calls to Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson’s office seeking a comment on the meth matter were not returned as of press time.

According to records highlighted by Cooper, law enforcement in North Carolina used technology last year to uncover a record number of illegal drug labs that make methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive synthetic illegal drug whose key ingredient is pseudoephedrine, found in some cold medicines.

Also known as “shake and bake” labs, one-pot meth labs use a small amount of pseudoephedrine to make meth in a plastic soda bottle. The labs are easy to conceal and move, making them more challenging for law enforcement to find than traditional meth labs that are larger and less mobile.

Tracking purchases of meth’s key ingredient helps uncover more labs.

SBI agents and other law enforcement officers in North Carolina have access to information about pseudoephedrine purchases through the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), helping them to identify likely meth cooks and find more meth labs. More than 400 investigators in North Carolina are now using the database to aid their investigations.

“Technology is leading us to meth labs we otherwise wouldn’t know about,” Cooper said. “We want to encourage all law enforcement agencies in North Carolina to take advantage of this tool to protect their communities.”

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at agonzalez@civitasmedia.com or at 835-1513.