South Plains Farmers Victims of Growing Drug Problem - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/2/04

South Plains Farmers Victims of Growing Drug Problem

Finding meth labs has become a weekly routine for local law enforcement. So far this week, Lubbock police busted three meth labs, two in Lubbock county and one in Garza county. Manufacturing meth is not a new problem but it's a growing problem and now local farmers have become victims in the process. 

"I call methamphetamine the new drug epidemic that's hit us right now," says Lubbock Police Narcotics Sergeant, Greg Stevens says meth manufacturing on the South Plains is growing. Because meth makers are constantly finding new ways to produce it.

"It's availability is what's making the biggest impact. It's America's drug because we import all our cocaine, heroine, and other drugs, but meth we make it here, sell it here. We deal it here. We use it here," says Sergeant Stevens.

He says stopping the manufacturing is the key to keeping it off the streets. But Stevens says most of the ingredients needed to make it are easy to get. "If you're a methamphetamine dealer and you run out you just go to the back yard shed and make more. It's very cheap and easy to make therefore it has a low overhead than other drugs and doesn't have to be smuggled."

But often, meth makers resort to local farmers for one key ingredient. "One of the ways on the South Plains is using Annhydrous Ammonia," says Stevens.

Annhydrous Ammonia is stored in large tanks and used by farmers to fertilize their crops.

"Unfortunately alot of the criminal element has figured out it's easy to make methamphetamine with it also and so it's stolen from farm tanks, from distributors," says Stevens.

The owner of the tanks wanted to protect his identity so he would not go on camera with us. But he did tell us ammonia was stolen out of them almost weekly and was told by police to to keep them locked. Police encourage other farmers to do the same. As the meth problem grows, Stevens educates other law enforcement agencies in 14 area counties on how to stop it.

"We try to train the deputies and police officers in those smaller communities on recognition of it and awareness. Our focus now is on the manufacture of it and part of that is to make sure police officers and the public aware of the things that are involved in production of meth and we've had more success that route than traditional surveillance," says Stevens.

Sergeant Stevens encourages anyone to report suspicious activity in their neighborhood. He says meth can be manufactured just about anywhere and if it's being done if your neighborhood you'll smell a strong odor of ammonia.  He says if this happens you can call Lubbock Police Narcotics at (806) 775-2859. You can remain anonymous.

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