HARRISONBURG — Virginia State Police Special Agent Mark Campbell held up a clear 32-ounce Gatorade bottle in front of a room of people Monday afternoon at the Harrisonburg Police Department.
At an educational meeting for the public, Campbell, who heads up the RUSH Drug Task Force, said there’s a misconception about methamphetamine labs.
He said they no longer need to be bulky, elaborate laboratories.
“This is a lab,” said Campbell, who leads the task force made up of officers from the Harrisonburg Police Department, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office and VSP. “They like the Gatorade bottles because they are heavily made.”
The presentation came at a time when police have seen a spike in meth labs.
Investigators found no labs in the city or county in 2011.
But that number jumped to 20 in 2012 and 45 last year. So far, 12 have been found this year.
Campbell said part of the reason for the increase is because drugs typically cycle through and re-emerge. He also said that meth has become easier for drug users to make.
Police say mobile meth labs are often used to evade detection.
They typically are found in vehicles, police say. One production method is known as “shake and bake.” It typically requires mixing a few ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle.
Along with the rise in meth labs has been an increase in the amount of the drug seized by RUSH.
In 2013, investigators seized roughly 814 grams of the drug, compared to 731 in 2012 and 306 in 2011.
During Monday’s presentation, Campbell outlined a new federal partnership that will help reduce the cost of cleaning up meth labs.
Recently, the task force joined forces with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The task force can now take chemicals from the meth labs to secure locations through the DEA’s Authorized Central Storage Container Program.
The DEA then handles the chemicals from there.
Rockingham County has a DEA storage container at an undisclosed location. It’s the only container in the central Shenandoah Valley; the next closest container is in Warren County.
Before the partnership, it would cost roughly $2,500 to $5,000 to clean up a lab, because an outside contractor would need to go to the scene to clean it up.
Police say they can now clean up the labs and put the chemicals in the container at a cost of $400 to $800.
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org