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County roads littered with drug-lab debris; two dozen busts since Jan. 1
Evidence of Perry County's meth plague literally litters Boyd Road. Empty cans of camp fuel are scattered every few yards, as are knotted plastic bags holding coffee filters stained red with pill residue, shreds of small batteries stripped of their lithium and dozens of empty blister packs once holding the ephedrine-containing decongestant medication meth-lab operators turn into methamphetamine.
It gets worse. Meth addicts tossing out their drug-lab trash leave behind plastic bottles containing the drug itself and black trash bags are regularly found with entire labs inside, including large plastic containers eaten away by meth and the chemicals used in its making.
"We've already been down Boyd Road before but each time we come back we find more and more of this stuff," said Paul Andry, an Indiana State Police sergeant who has led a redoubled effort at cracking down on meth since the beginning of the year. "What many people don't know is some of what we find can injure and kill them."
Andry, his fellow troopers and local law enforcement have intensified their efforts at dismantling drug labs that produce meth. It's an effort they hope will put a major dent in the local meth trade. Since January alone, police have logged more than two dozen busts.
Andry and his team have been aided by Tell City Police Cpl. Marty Haughee, Sheriff's Deputy Lee Chestnut and others, including Cannelton Police Chief Kenny Kellems and State Parole Officer Michelle Asher. Supporting their efforts has been the county prosecutor's office.
"Meth is still a drug of choice in Perry County. We initiated a plan to attack the problem at its source - the illegal purchase of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which is the key ingredient for making methamphetamine. Track the pills and you find the dealers," County Prosecutor Robert Collins said of an operation he and police agencies have dubbed Operation River Tweeker.
A tweeker (sometimes spelled tweaker) is a drug addict hooked on meth. Some cook the drug, others sell meth or help cooks gather needed supplies. Based on the number of recent arrests and busts, and the amount of meth litter seen on local roadways, Perry County is still home to a large population of tweekers.
Realizing that meth making begins with ephedrine and pseudoephedrine found in some cold medications, police have been enforcing state laws that limit how many tablets can be purchased. It is a class C misdemeanor in Indiana to purchase more than 3 grams of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or both, in one week.
Officers have been arresting people in the county on warrants for the illegal purchase of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, Collins said.
Police have also been hitting the roadways to remove drug litter left behind by drug-lab operators More than a dozen empty camp-fuel cans were found on Boyd Road Thursday and more were found on Scout Road. More than 30 cans were removed earlier this year, Andry said.
Also found last week were plastic soda bottles used in the drug-making process, some of them with plastic tubes coming out of their tops. Not only are such discoveries sure signs of meth activity, they point to the danger to the community posed by meth litter.
"What if a youth group was picking up litter today and came across this?" Andry asked, showing how the strong chemicals used to make meth can cause serious burns and vapors from reaction vessels can cause permanent lung injury. Drug addicts may throw out what they think are empty bottles but rainwater can mix with toxic residue inside the containers, creating a deadly brew. Other containers, including metal tanks containing anhydrous, can explode with fatal results or cause flash fires.
"Litter thrown away by meth addicts shows their disregard for the community," Andry said.
Meth debris isn't only found on roadsides, but in abandoned buildings and even cemeteries. Following up on a tip about drug items in a Cannelton Cemetery, Andry and Haughee searched Old Cliff Cemetery Thursday and found a black trash bag filled with meth-lab leftovers, including plastic containers and stained coffee filters. Also found was a syringe and a metal tank likely used to store anhydrous.
Throwing out drug items is a felony, Andry said, and litter occasionally gives clues to who the perpetrators are.
Collins vows the beefed-up enforcement will be followed by tough prosecution.
"I want the drug dealers and makers to know that law enforcement will track you down, and my office will prosecute you. If you use meth, stop and go get help now," he said.
Collins encourages residents to report suspected drug activity to one of several hot lines. The Tell City Police Department's anonymous tip line can be reached at 547-9563 and the Indiana State Police's Drug Tip Line is (800) 622-4962.
Information can also be reported to the Perry County Sheriff's Department at 547-2441, the Tell City Police Department at 547-7068 or the Cannelton Police Department 547-2111.
Help for addicts is available through Agap Recovery Ministries and Narcotics Anonymous, located at 101 Taylor St., Cannelton and Southern Hills Counseling Center. Agape Recovery Ministries can be reached at 547-2772. Southern Hills is located at 1443 Ninth St., in Tell City. The office telephone number is 547-7905.