New Mexico Police Display Meth Dangers

The stage was set Thursday to “cook” methamphetamines in two abandoned apartment buildings in Albuquerque, N.M.; only it was police and researchers making the drug, not criminals.

The event was part of an effort to fight meth production and abuse in Albuquerque.

Researchers from the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, along with the DEA as well as State and Albuquerque Police, used the “Nazi” method, a quick but effective means of making the drug, to produce methamphetamines in the apartment buildings on the 400 block of Tennessee Avenue NE.

The demonstration’s intent was to show that although meth typically stays inside building during its production, it can also become aerosolized and absorbed into a building’s walls, carpets and floors.

“Children are brushing up (against), crawling on carpets and getting meth in their mouths,” said John Martyny, associate professor at the center.

Linda Gordon, who is involved with community policing in the La Mesa neighborhood, said it was important to have the event there because the area is saturated with children who live and attend school nearby, and run up and down the surrounding streets every day.

“La Mesa (neighborhood association) has a specific problem because of the congestion,” she said.

Gordon said the unfortunate, unintended victims of meth production are children.

“The saddest trend in the growth of meth labs is the children who are present,” said Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. “Of those children, at least 30 percent have meth in their bloodstreams from chemicals present in their homes.”

Albuquerque police officers shut down 90 meth labs in Albuquerque last year, while State Police busted 250, Denish said.She said that number continues to grow. “It’s a stunning figure,” said Randy Boeglin, UNM dean of students.

He said it is possible that meth is being used by students in off-campus areas, but based on police reports, he has not seen anything that would indicate the use of the drug on campus.

New Mexico State Police Lieutenant Robert Schilling said this was one of the center’s first “Nazi” cooks, making the findings particularly interesting. He said the center was looking for a correlation between meth and the problems it causes for children, the main one being difficulty with their respiratory systems.

Researchers, not wanting to endanger area residents at the event, used a diluted mixture of ingredients to make the drug.

“Criminals don’t take these precautions; these guys (researchers) are the experts,” Schilling said.

Denish said the event was important because it showed that New Mexico is ahead of the curve in protecting our children and families from the menace of methamphetamines.

“In New Mexico, we want to be proactive and take the lead in making sure this trend does not grow here and give our police and prosecutors the tools to protect our children and families,” she said.

Two bills, part of a legislative package, will be introduced in the 2004 New Mexico legislative session to prevent the production of meth in the presence of children.

The first would charge anyone who produces meth, or has its ingredients around children, with child abuse. The second would make changes to the Drug Precursor Act, increasing penalties to felony charges if anyone were found possessing meth.

It would also allow pharmacies to regulate the sale of over-the-counter drugs used as key ingredients in meth production.

“Believe me, it won’t be easy,” said state Senator Richard Romero.

“Pharmacy companies will make excuses. It’s about time we took the initiative.”