Bringing down the meth monster

The Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force has been witnessing a monster creeping into Shelby County over the past few years.

The monster has been attacking individuals, families, organizations and businesses without regard to socio-economic status, age, race, profession, location or heritage.

“The meth labs we have busted have been all over the county,” said Lt. Chris George, commander of the Drug Enforcement Task Force. “It’s a drug that affects everybody. Every social class and every age; it doesn’t discriminate.

“Once meth gets in a community, it takes over,” George added, noting the task force is composed of representatives from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, the Shelby County district attorney’s office, the Alabama Air National Guard and the Alabaster, Pelham, Harpersville and Helena police departments.

Along with a new decade, the first few months of 2010 brought more methamphetamine lab busts and meth-related crimes when compared to the same time period in 2009.

Between Jan. 1-March 16 this year, the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force located and destroyed 11 meth labs in the county, which was 11 more than it destroyed during the same period in 2009.

“This time last year, the number was zero,” George said. “That shows you how much it has increased lately.”

Because meth labs usually contain hazardous chemicals and produce toxic fumes, properly disposing of meth lab components can be problematic for the task force.

“During the process of manufacturing meth, producers combine ingredients that are volatile and extremely dangerous, but readily available at your local store,” George said. “When combined, the smallest amount of instability can cause the ingredients to combust, causing potential physical harm to anyone that may be around the user.

“It’s really taxing on us. If we think there is a lab somewhere, we send five officers to the scene,” George added, noting all officers who respond must wear hazardous material suits. “Then, two officers will stay with the lab until we can get it properly destroyed.”

To help combat the problem, George recently assigned a task force agent to devote all of his time to investigating meth labs across the county.

Even though law enforcement officials are placing a greater emphasis on combating meth labs, they are still reliant on tips and information from local residents, pharmacies, stores and county law enforcement agencies to locate and destroy the labs, George said.

Anyone with information related to meth labs or other illegal activity in Shelby County should call the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force at 670-0436, or by visiting Shelbyso.com, clicking the “report criminal activity” button on the left side of the site and choosing the “drug activity/narcotics” category when submitting the report.