The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


July 18, 2013

Chasing the high: Meth arrests on rise in Clinton County

CLINTON — Empty 20-ounce drink containers coated with salty residue or sludge, discarded tubing, cold compresses and fuel cans lying on the side of the road and in ditches are more than just a product of littering.

Indicators of portable methamphetamine labs, those discarded items are becoming a more common sight throughout Clinton County, according to law enforcement officials.

“There’s been an increase in the number of the methamphetamine-related arrests in the county,” agrees Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf, whose office oversees prosecution of meth-related cases.

In fact, Clinton Police Sgt. Ron Heeren has not seen this level of meth problems since the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. He added that for a time, there were a lot of cooks using anhydrous ammonia and psuedoephedrine to manufacture meth. After the state adopted its psuedoephedrine law that limits the amount of the drug that can be purchased, the amount of labs had decreased.

“So we went through a period of time when we had occasional instances of manufacturing, but not to the point it’s at now,” Heeren said.

Until recently, Clinton police did not separate drug arrests by type, instead lumping them all together. Heeren was unable to compare how the number of meth arrests has changed, but was confident there has been a definite increase. Gateway ImpACT Coalition Executive Director Kristin Huisenga estimated that at least nine labs were discovered in the county during the first half of this year.

In the last 10 years, Camanche Police Sgt. Rich Schmitz remembers only one meth arrest and that there were definitely less than five during that time. But while Camanche had zero meth-related arrests in the past two years, the number jumped to a total of 13 since the middle of May until now.

The culprit behind this dramatic increase may be the “one-pot” or “shake and bake” method. These small labs actually typically consist of two drink containers — the portion where the meth oil is manufactured and the bottle where the anhydrous ammonia is created. The fumes are then blown back into the other container to create the drug.

Shake and bake meth labs combine a variety of household items. Heeren attributed the rise in meth activity to the accessibility of these items.

“It’s relatively easy to get everything you need to manufacture,” Hereen said.

Clinton County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Cundiff said the traditional meth lab required a larger amount of psuedoephedrine tablets and anhydrous ammonia. The county has worked with farmers in order to stop people from stealing the chemical for the manufacture of meth. However, the “one-pot” meth cooks use cold compress packs to produce the anhydrous ammonia.

“So they don’t have that fear where they have to steal anhydrous. Now they can just go into the convenience stores and buy these cold packs,” said Cundiff, adding that they need to educate retailers to be on the lookout for people buying a lot of cold packs.

Cundiff said this method of manufacturing the drug will allow labs to pop up more in town, while traditional labs, mainly because of the smell they produced, were typically found in more rural areas. This method also is quicker and produces less product.

“The fact they’re portable makes them more dangerous,” Huisenga said. “They can really transport them anywhere.”

Many of these labs are found in cars or at the side of a road. Schmitz has received several tips of meth lab waste lying in ditches. This usually consists of drink containers with tubing or black duct tape coming out of them.

“If it looks like there’s something in it other than Mt. Dew or Gatorade or something to that effect, I wouldn’t move it. Call law enforcement,” Schmitz said.

He emphasized people should not touch the items because the chemicals can sometimes reactivate themselves if moved. Also, some manufacturers will start the process and leave it in a secluded area to cook. Either way, it can be very volatile.

“Manufacturing methamphetamine, no matter how you do it, is dangerous with all these different types of chemicals. But putting all these chemicals in a two-liter bottle, I mean, basically you’re creating a bomb if you’re not careful,” Cundiff said.

Schmitz said local law enforcement  has been very proactive in fighting the production of meth. Camanche police have partnered with Clinton, Savanna, Ill., and the county on recent arrests, as well as with the Iowa Department of Narcotics.

“Without their (other law enforcement agencies’) help we’d really be struggling,” Heeren said. “They’ve been very good to us.”

Meth investigations can take a great deal of time. The investigation for the May bust by Camanche and Clinton police started in January. Heeren said the Clinton department is stretched to the limit as it is.

Heeren added the work by the Gateway ImpACT Coalition has really educated the community and increased awareness. He said people are not hesitant to get involved by calling when they notice something suspicious.

“It’s the subtle, little things that quite often crack open cases,” Heeren said.

Wolf is seeing not only repeat offenders, but also first-timers arrested on meth charges. He said charges also can be brought against those supplying the precursors. Wolf encouraged anyone asked to purchase psuedoephedrine products for someone else to alert the police or CrimeStoppers at 242-6595.

“If you know that you are buying psuedoephedrine for the manufacture of methamphetamine, that’s a felony,” Wolf said. “It’s not something that should be taken lightly.”

The Clinton County Attorney’s Office works to separate the manufacturer or user from the addiction. Wold said meth is extremely addictive and users usually have to be incarcerated for a period of time so they can get clean.

“It’s rare that I’ve seen someone rehabilitate on their own,” Wolf said.


Text Only
  • 4-22-14 CCC Pay it Forward Week CCC gives back to community CLINTON -- A community college is defined as a junior college offering a higher education to people living in a particular area. For the staff, faculty and students at Clinton Community College the definition of community plays a much bigger role tha

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kness photo Leader, wife run on in fight against cancer FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Fort Bragg Soldier Col. Lenny Kness, chief of staff, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), is an avid runner. So, it was no surprise in October 2011 that he would stay the course, as planned many months before, and run the Army Ten M

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-21-14 Ash Borer AP photo Horticulturalists: Infestation of Emerald Ash Borer 'inevitable'

    CLINTON - Not everyone at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum can remember what happened to local horticulture in the late 1960s. They've all heard stories, though, about how Dutch Elm Disease laid waste to scores of trees across the Midwest. Now another infes

    April 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Women on Fire event is Wednesday at Vista Grande CLINTON -- For many years, women in business have been honored in the city of Clinton, but on Wednesday, they have a night all their own. The Women are on Fire event will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Vista Grande in Clinton and will offer an oppo

    April 19, 2014

  • Paul Miller Scout master keeps Troop 74 going strong CLINTON -- Scout Master Paul Miller loves the outdoors, camping, fishing and scouting. For the past 13 years, Paul, of Clinton, has led this area's only Boy Scout troop for challenged individuals, Troop 74. While a typical troop allows boys ages 11

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • World Book Night A big love for books CLINTON -- Sharing a love for books is something members of the Clinton Public Library have always promoted and embraced. On Wednesday, they will join the rest of the world in spreading that love throughout communities. World Book Night, which conve

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-17-14 Trees forever photo 2 Let it grow (with Video)

    CLINTON - A new generation of trees will be planted by a young generation of Irish. Wednesday during class, Lisa Golden's Prince of Peace Prep third-graders continued their year-long biology education with the help of Clinton's Trees Forever organiza

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Communities prep for hunts CLINTON -- Easter weekend is nearly here and two local organizations are calling all children for the hunting event of the year -- Easter egg hunting that is. Both Camanche and Fulton, Ill., will host Easter egg hunts Saturday, each at different time

    April 17, 2014

  • Women's Expo set for Tuesday at Wild Rose CLINTON -- It is time again to gather the girlfriends and head out to the Ultimate Spring Women's Expo at the Wild Rose Event Center in Clinton. The third annual expo from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, hosted by the Clinton Herald, offers an opportuni

    April 14, 2014

  • Fulton housing loan Program to assist Fulton resident FULTON, Ill. -- Brian Hollenback and Beth Payne delivered good news last week, traveling to seven cities, three counties and two states, ending their journey in Fulton. Hollenback, who is the Northwestern Illinois Housing Coalition president, and its

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

Clinton Herald Photos

Browse, buy and submit pictures with our photo site.