JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Homebuyers Beware
of Former Meth Labs

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

February 26, 2004 -- Landlords and realtors face grave dangers related to property where methamphetamines have been produced, according to Lt. Antonio Gonzalez, a policeman from the Juvenile Investigations Division of the Dothan Police Department who led a continuing education program recently at Jacksonville State University.

Gonzalez warned about 110 realtors from the Calhoun County Board of Realtors who attended the Feb. 24 workshop that they faced death or injury from the growing number of people who “cook” methamphetamines.  The word is frequently shorted to “meth.”

Gonzalez distributed a handout with a drawing of people wearing gas masks and body suits as they entered a home. “This is the way we would enter a home where we suspected meth had been made,” he said. “You wouldn’t do this.” Instead, he said, an unsuspecting landlord or realtor could be showing off an oven used to make the drug when, “Boom.” The explosion that followed could kill or injure them and any clients that were viewing the home.

Another fright to land owners and realtors is the cost to clean up a room or a yard where the drug had been prepared. It could skyrocket beyond $10,000.   If by-products from the meth lab have been dumped into a yard, the land must be dug up and restored. Rooms where labs once existed must be cleaned by professionals who can measure and destroy toxicity in carpets and flooring.  People must be taught the dangers, said Gonzalez.

A third group of unsuspecting victims is children. Those making methamphetamines often filter the toxic fumes through kitty litter. They often place buckets full of litter out beside garbage cans for pickup. Should a child handle the litter or even play in the grass where the by-products of a meth lab was dumped, they could be poisoned. Children and adults can be poisoned over a period of time where meth production took place. “This is a community problem,” said Gonzalez.

Many in the crowd had wrinkled brows and shaky hands as they listened to Gonzalez.

“And guess who’s using these drugs?” asked Gonzalez. “It’s people like you.” He pointed to a table where several realtors sat. “Meth helps people lose weight. Guess who’s making these drugs? It’s teenagers, often the kids of the people using them.”

Methamphetamine produces a “high” that helps people avoid fatigue and lose weight. The side effects, though, aren’t worth the trade-off, considering how addictive and dangerous the drug is to the body. People can suffer from delusions, rotten teeth, liver and kidney damage, complete respiratory failure, and nerve damage. The dangers in the drug’s production and subsequent by-products are destructive to the entire community.

Educating people to the signs of meth production is important, said Gonzalez. Here are signs people need to watch for from neighbors or renters:

  • Odors. Meth production often emits smells like ammonia, nail polish remover or cat urine.
  • High traffic of people in and out of the home, especially at night.
  • Houses where windows are covered and doors are reinforced.
  • Dead foliage near a window, garage, shed where heat and fumes have affected trees.
  • Discarded propane bottles, especially ones with corrosion; match boxes with the striker plates, which are used in meth production, missing; cartons of medicines with ephedrine, such as pseudoephedrine, Max-Alerts, Yellow Jackets, diet pills ephedrine;matches; and lithium batteries.
Citizens in the community should call law enforcement officials should they suspect the production of methamphetamines in their neighborhoods. They should also let their representatives know they support strengthening of legislation that punishes those who use and those who produce the drug. The state of Florida is currently seeking to have producers and uses of methamphetamines tried under the Homeland Security Defense laws to increase the severity of prosecution.

Gonzalez said he had a 15-year background in juvenile investigations. He and the Dothan Police Department are happy to share what they have learned with citizens throughout the state.

The seminar to was sponsored jointly by the Board of Realtors and the JSU Department of Continuing Education.


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