How to spot a meth lab

Issue Date: April 27, 2005
Christine Souza

To detect if there may be a methamphetamine lab located on a rural property, rural-crime specialists say farmers should pay attention to the following details:

  • Be aware of boxes or drums with placards indicating corrosive, flammable or poisonous materials, as well as laboratory glassware, discarded pseudophedrine boxes or other chemical containers. Be on the lookout for large numbers of containers that are not consistent with agriculture such as cans of acetone, mineral spirits or paint thinner, which are all used in the meth-manufacturing process.
  • Since making methamphetamine is a 24-hour-a-day process and cooks could be involved in manufacturing it for up to three days at a time, look for lights that are on continuously in buildings, lots of activity or constant use of electricity.
  • Although some cookers have become more sophisticated in how they vent the fumes emitted during the process, pay attention to any funny or unique smells coming from the property.
  • Look for possible places where meth cookers may have buried the materials used in cooking the drug, things like empty chemical containers, glassware, hoses, bed sheets, etc. Be aware of places that look like someone has used a backhoe to dig a trench that has been recently covered up.
  • Farmers must look out for individuals offering them a lot of money, especially in cash, to rent a property. If they do rent the property, one possible indicator that a lab is located there is if a building's windows have been blacked out or darkened.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Agent Bill Grant says law-enforcement agencies have worked hard to combat meth production.

"The numbers of meth lab dumps in California are going down. We are being more successful," Grant said. "We have been very successful in cutting off the flow of ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine across the Canadian border; therefore, the big California superlabs are leaving and relocating into Mexico."

In California in 2004, he said, 136 dump sites were reported; 341 dump sites were reported in 2003, 467 dump sites were reported in 2002; 411 dump sites were reported in 2001; and 395 dump sites were reported in 2000.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.