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Cortland/Ithaca

Police bust double the number of drug labs

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Police bust double the number of drug labs
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Drug labs are popping up everywhere. State Police have responded to double the number of labs and incidents compared to last year. And they say as meth becomes more mobile and easier to produce, drug labs can be anywhere: In a house, car or even a backpack. As our Katie Gibas reports, that's why police are trying to educate people about what to look for to keep themselves, their families and neighbors safe.

ONEIDA, N.Y. -- Technical Sergeant Doug Wildermuth has responded to dozens of meth lab busts in his years on the New York State Police. As part of an experiment, he learned firsthand the dangers of producing meth in the "one pot" or "shake 'n bake" method.

"Not making it before, but yet in a controlled environment, it's a little nerve-wracking when the bottle starts to swell up," said Wildermuth.

And often, it swells to the point of an explosion. That's why police want people to know the signs of a meth lab, which include a lot of Sudafed, batteries, ice packs, Drano and Gatorade bottles, so they can report it.

"Families, children, most of them don't know they're around this stuff because some of it is common household items. And that's what's important to stress to the public. If you see a lot of these items together and or suspicious activity with them and or any kind of demonstrations that you just witnessed, there's a lot of illegal activity going on here," said Wildermuth.

And the problem is on the rise. State Police say so far this year, they've responded to 127 labs or incidents caused by labs. That's more than double last year.

"The labs are much more mobile, so they can gather up all these ingredients, throw them in a car and make the meth product in a car. So they don't need a building, they don't need a shed, they can go anywhere," said Mary Clark, a State Police Lieutenant.

Wildermuth added, "A majority of these labs, people don't know they're actually responding to until they're actually in them and that's one of the biggest safety hazards that we're dealing with today."

State Police say not only are these meth labs a huge safety concern, they also take up a lot of resources and time that could be spent on other public safety issues.

"It's also an expense to the community, just on the economic side of things. We have to hire out hazmat haulers to get rid of this material. It's nothing that we can just throw in the dollars. So it can cost us as little as two to five thousand dollars per time that this happens. That's not for us to send in a team to have to mitigate an entire residence," said Eric Underhill, a State Police Emergency Management Captain.

But authorities are making a dent. In June, two dozen people were arrested for the production of meth. Police say the community is key to making an even bigger impact.

Troop D police say meth makes up about 30 percent of their total drug related crimes.

So far this year, they've responded to one drug lab each in Jefferson and Onondaga Counties, 32 in Madison, 11 in Oneida and 12 in Oswego.

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