DA battles meth

Agents from the Region V Drug Task Force and narcotics officers from the New Mexico State Police catalog chemicals found when agents stopped a mobile methamphetamine laboratory in October 2002. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

Yellow space suits, high-powered rifles and your parents screaming as some stranger drags them away. The methamphetamine bust as seen by the child on the inside, officials say, is a frightening thing.

But according to statistics from the New Mexico State Police, this unfortunate drama is fairly common. When a methamphetamine lab is busted, children are on the scene about 30 percent of the time.

Since 2001, statistics show law enforcement officials have busted roughly 20 methamphetamine labs a year in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Of the 18 labs the New Mexico State Police have busted since 2001 in Curry County, 12 children were in those houses and affected as a result of the busts, statistics show.

On Dec. 9, two teens — a 14- and 16-year-old — were found in a methamphetamine lab after it was busted at the intersection of 11th and Mitchell streets in Clovis, according to District Attorney Matt Chandler.

“Statistics are, they will be (exposed to meth),” Chandler said. “(Children Youth and Families Department) has come and taken those children and is currently placing them in foster care.”

Between 1999 and 2001, the number of children present at methamphetamine busts in the United States went from 950 to 2,028, according to statistics released by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

This month’s lab bust happened only blocks from the county jail and courthouse. Information obtained from that house led state police to another meth lab only a mile away, which they busted later that day, Chandler said. However, no children were found there, he said.

Methamphetamine manufacturers set up shop in Clovis because of the easy access to the supplies here, Chandler said.

“We need to evict them from our district,” Chandler said.
Steve Box used methamphetamine for seven years in a row, eventually losing everything he owned. Now the Missouri resident writes books and speaks to people about how he was delivered from his addiction by turning to God.

“It’s like you are outside the world you are in — it’s a real strange, euphoric paranoia that is very addictive,” he said. “It’s bizarre.”

Once while visiting Las Vegas, Nev., Box was arrested after becoming extremely paranoid on methamphetamine and firing a gun out the window of a casino. At the time he believed his girlfriend was a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

“The voices in my head had convinced me that there was bugs and cameras everywhere, and I had a .357 in one hand, cocked,” Box said.

Chandler hopes to eliminate meth from this community by educating retailers on how to identify the ingredients used by meth manufacturers. He plans to launch the program Feb. 1.

“If you are a retailer, and someone walks up and is trying to buy five, six, seven — sometimes 10 boxes of (cold medicine) — you need to be aware that they’re probably not trying to treat the common cold,” he said.

He said anyone purchasing large quantities of chemicals needed to produce methamphetamine, such as cold medicine, phosphorus, antifreeze, camping fuel, rock salt, muriatic acid or iodine, may be asked to show their identity card to the clerk. He said this is a small price to pay to get rid of the clandestine meth labs in the district.