Police receive meth lab training

Meth busts have multiplied in number across the Upper Peninsula since 2010.

Law enforcement officials say meth is a problem everywhere, but Marquette County and Gogebic County are the most prevalent areas.

“Local prosecutors are doing more meth cases,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maarten Vermaat said. “Matt Wiese from Marquette County reports that he did 60 meth cases this past year, 2012, whereas three years ago, he’d only done three.”

There’s also likely been a similar increase in the number of meth labs that aren’t found because of how easy it is to make the drug.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance presented a training course in Marquette Monday on how police can identify and safely handle a meth lab.

The most common type of lab starts with pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in cold and sinus remedies like Sudafed.

“The one–pot, shake–and–bake method. It’s a very simple manufacturing process,” Institute for Intergovernmental Research instructor Kevin Glaser said. “It’s extremely dangerous, though. You’re talking about putting a lot of volatile chemicals into a single container.”

The container can explode, like it did at a home in Gwinn in December 2011.

But the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team says the compact size of the container means that meth can be made just about anywhere, including in a car.

One such lab was found at a Marquette gas station in September 2011.

“They’re cooking in their houses, in their garages. We’ve had people cooking in motel rooms,” Det. Sgt. Ron Koski of the UPSET Meth Response Team said. “They’ll pull down just a dirt road, they’ll make their meth and then they’ll discard everything on the side of the road.”

The classroom training was going on inside the Marquette Holiday Inn. Some of the people receiving it work undercover, so we’re unable to show the training to you out of a need to protect their identities.

Because meth can be cooked almost anywhere, public involvement is crucial to stopping the spread of the drug.

“When people are out and about and they’re walking, and also the people that are cleaning up the sides of the highway, if they see bottles with hoses coming out of them, if you see cut lithium batteries in a bag, call 911,” Det. Sgt. Koski said.

“Pharmacies that see unusual, suspicious activity, they need to be contacting the police to say ‘hey, we’ve got people coming in to buy all these cold products and they don’t look like they have colds’,” Glaser said.

More than 80 people from 30 different city, county, state, federal and tribal agencies attended the day-long training.