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New computer system helps police monitor key ingredient in war on meth

(Sept. 17, 2014) – Methamphetamine, the scourge of rural Indiana over the last decade, is on the run thanks to tougher state laws and a nationwide computer system that allows investigators and retailers to track the purchases of cold medicines needed to make the drug.

Now Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department detectives are being trained to track down the buyers of pseudoephedrine.

Investigators gathered at the IMPD Training Academy to learn how to use the NPLEx computer system which monitors the sale of the ingredient that is as essential to cold medicine as it is to making meth.

“It’s a system that will allow you to track purchases of pseudoephedrine in real time and allow you to block purchases at point of sale,” said Detective Scott Kendall of the Aurburn (Ala.) Police Department who was brought to Indianapolis to train IMPD officers. “Now with the NPLEx system it’s all centrally located into one database. I can pull up and see everything right in front of me at one time and it definitely makes it easier to track it.

“I can put it in the system and I can immediately look and say, ‘Hey, they been buying ‘x’ amount of pseudoephedrine or they haven’t been buying,’ and right there I can kind of weed out if it’s a legitimate complaint or not.”

Though new to Indianapolis, access to the NPLEx system has succeeded in blocking the sales of nearly 200,000 boxes of cold medicines to suspicious buyers since the start of 2012.

Tougher state laws and pharmacy restrictions have also cut down on the sales of pseudoephedrine, a precursor to meth.

“It allows me to get a heads up and interdict some of these purchases at the point of sale,” said Kendall. “If it’s an illegal purchase, it automatically gets blocked at the pharmacy which prevents the person from getting the precursor which is the pseudoephedrine. If they do make a purchase and I get an alert I can use that information to try to stop them before they actually get to the point of where they manufacture methamphetamine.”

Kendall said that stopping the sale and blocking the production of the drug alleviates future clean up, contamination and exposure problems associated with meth labs.