Mobile meth labs put public at risk
Methamphetamine users are shaking up volatile chemicals in popular sports drink bottles and toting their dangerous concoction out in public in purses and backpacks, putting families in harm's way.
State police showed 13 Investigates remnants from meth seizures across Indiana before they are destroyed. Three out of every four busts right now are meth labs on the go.
They are created in a single bottle. The streamlined process calls for a fiery, explosive mix of cold medicine and chemicals. Worse yet, it allows meth users to cook as they go to the store, restaurants and other public places while putting unsuspecting Hoosiers at risk.
"Basically, they're carrying around a bomb. We've had these things inside coat pockets, backpacks," explained ISP 1st Sgt. Niki Crawford, who leads the state's effort to combat methamphetamine use.
Meth labs used to be contained to an isolated place. Now, they can go just about everywhere you can go, with a simple bottle mixed with the right ingredients and tucked into a bag.
Sgt. Crawford says other states have even reported people mixing up their meth ingredients in a WalMart restroom as part of the "one pot" or "shake and bake" method.
"We've had others who were walking up and down the aisles with the one-pot in their purse or their bag. I mean, right there where you have dozens of other shoppers - little kids, adults, elderly people - I mean, you have a whole mix of people," Crawford said.
Those people would be exposed to explosions and burns if the smallest thing goes wrong. Wishard Hospital has seen 12 suspected meth burn cases this year.
"You don't know who's just enjoying a beverage or who's cooking meth," said one Indianapolis mother, who asked not to be identified.
"It is scary. That is a scary thought. You know, we walk around with our children. We're walking around in stores, not expecting chemicals to blow up at any moment because it's highly flammable," the mom added in disbelief.
"That's the biggest issue with these 'one pot' labs is the explosive factor and the easy ability to fail and they can take them anywhere," Sgt. Crawford told 13 Investigates.
There's also the danger of toxic fumes. If the manufacturer fails to "burp the bottle," by untwisting the cap slightly to allow some of the pressure to escape, Crawford said, "There's an enormous amount of ammonia gas that builds up inside of these containers and that can also injure somebody in their nasal passages and their lungs, breathing in that gas, as well as burning their skin and their eyes."
The sport drink bottles are popular for cooking meth because of the sturdy plastic. The "shake and bake" method also cuts the cooking time in half.
Indiana State Police are on track to making another record number of arrests this year, currently showing a 12 percent increase through July.
If you notice something suspicious alert authorities. Also, don't grab bags or pick up backpacks left along the highway or other remote places. Police say seven out of ten times, those backpacks are meth labs.