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Chambers County Reports Progress In Eradicating Meth Labs, Usage

In 2010, the Chambers County Drug Task Force worked 88 meth labs.

That number is down to one for the first eight months of 2014. Chambers County law enforcement officials discussed the decrease Thursday morning at the county courthouse in LaFayette.

Sheriff Sid Lockhart was joined by District Attorney Chief Assistant Damon Lewis, Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon, LaFayette Police Chief Kenneth Vines, Lanett Police Chief Angie Spates, Drug Task Force Project Director Robert Chambers and Drug Task Force Commander Johnny Wood, where they discussed their progress in eradicating meth labs and use, while acknowledging their work is far from complete.

“Alabama is leading the nation through our efforts to prevent meth production and use in our communities. In Chambers County we have made tremendous progress,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart and others cited the state’s comprehensive anti-meth bill, which was passed in 2012 and described as the nation’s toughest. The legislation includes a drug offender database; reductions in the amount of pseudoephedrine (PSE) that a person can purchase monthly; establishment of a felony charge for anybody convicted of being involved with smurfing (where individuals purchase pseudoephedrine and sell them for intention of producing meth); and restitution of expenses incurred in prosecuting meth labs.

Lt. Chambers said the number of meth-related arrests in Chambers County has declined sharply in the last two years, from 120 in 2012 to just 13 so far in 2014.

“Our success can be attributed to the countless hours of work of our great deputies and police officers in the county, as well as the new national NPLEx (point-of-purchase) reporting system,” Chambers said. “This system tracks the sale of pseudoephedrine, which requires a government issued photo ID, and will block a sale if someone has exceeded their daily or monthly allowable limit.”

In 2013, the NPLEx system blocked 84 purchases in Chambers County. The numbers of blocks were much higher in other East Alabama counties, including Lee (1,075) and Russell (1,489).

Lewis explained that in Alabama, PSE must be kept behind the counter and can only be sold by a licensed pharmacist or technician under the pharmacist’s supervision. The state only allows a monthly allowable purchase of 7.5 grams, down from 9.0 grams. Valid identification is required to purchase PSE.

“You can’t be from Mississippi or a surrounding state and come in (Alabama) and buy PSE without (identification) or a valid prescription,” Lewis said.

Weldon said the reduction saves taxpayers money since the county is not spending as much for investigation and clean-up costs

“…We are able to save Chambers County taxpayers a lot of money from unnecessary meth lab clean up,” he said.

Weldon also said meth production puts law enforcement and even children at risk. He discussed one meth clean-up where somebody bumped over a Mason jar of liquid which contained lithium. Once exposed to the moisture in the area, the ground caught fire. Weldon said a 3-year-old child was there when the lab was busted.

“Citizens need to know the laws surrounding smurfing and meth production, and are encouraged to call the drug task force with tips involving people who are trying to cheat the system,” Weldon said. 

Law enforcement officials acknowledged that meth and other drugs are still brought into the region from other places, especially Georgia.