PEMISCOT/DUNKLIN COUNTIES, MO (KAIT) - Officials with the Pemiscot County Sheriff's Department Monday said the Missouri bootheel has been a hotbed for meth manufacturers and addicts. According to information from an El Paso Intelligence Agency, Missouri had 20% of all meth related incidents in the United States in 2008.
According to Pemiscot County Sheriff Tommy Greenwell, recent problems with tracking the purchase of methamphetamine ingredients have officials working to update the system.
"Our problem has changed, used to we were the number one county in the state of Missouri in lab seizures," said Greenwell.
Leads on Labs is a program used by various states in the country. It allows law enforcement to track the purchase of pseudoephedrine. If a person tries to buy too much of the product, then police are notified and a red flag is waved on that person.
Arkansas uses this program to help crack down on meth addicts, but Missouri pharmacies haven't been able to update its computer software.
Jefferson County in Missouri leads the state in meth incidents. It consists of rural neighborhoods, which is more prone to drug activity.
Greenwell said meth is the number one drug discovered in the Missouri bootheel, but he can't understand why so many people get hooked.
"Every ingredient that you put in methamphetamine, if you use it individually, is toxic, it will kill you," said Greenwell. "It's so addictive that it takes good people and turns them into druggers and they lose everything they have."
Pemiscot County had the highest number of meth lab seizures in the state at one time. While they're no longer the highest, the problem is still prevalent.
"We don't see near as many labs, but we still have the problem as far as the addicts, the methamphetamine addicts," said Greenwell.
"Around the southeast Missouri area, we have a five state area, that's fairly close, they can make a 300 or 400 mile trip, circle and hit Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky," said John Higgins with the Bootheel Drug Task Force.
Officials said the Shake and Bake method of manufacturing meth is must easier, which is one reason it's more difficult to track. People who wouldn't be suspected of using meth are starting to abuse it.
"A lot of the females start using the methamphetamine as a quick weight loss program, and what happens is they get addicted to it and they can't turn it loose," said Greenwell. "Males a lot of them are working 2 or 3 jobs and they try meth to stay up to work and once it gets you, it's very addictive."
"We still find that most Caucasians are heavy meth users and most of our African American population is still using a lot of crack cocaine," said Greenwell.
Greenwell said a more potent form of meth, called ice, is making its rounds on the streets.
"We have the Mexican cartels down in Mexico and California. We're seeing what we call ice that's being shipped in," said Greenwell. "Instead of the homemade methamphetamine we're having a lot higher quality methamphetamine being shipped in for the people that are addicted to it."
"Besides the homemade stuff we have here, the labs going on, we have large quantities of the meth, which is also called ice, that's being imported from the southwest United States and Mexico," said Higgins.
When serving arrest warrants on meth makers, agents often discover marijuana and crack cocaine.
"You would think as much publicity as methamphetamine has been given nationally and locally, that people would not even try it," said Greenwell. "I could assure you. The penitentiary is full of people that for no other reason than possession or the sale of methamphetamine and when they come back out, they start all over again."