Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2007

Potential meth lab discovered

April 26, 2007

A De Soto man was arrested Thursday and charged with three counts stemming from the planned manufacture of methamphetamine.

Johnson County Sheriff's Department spokesman Tom Erickson said the investigation started when investigators were informed Kris Zimmerman had made an Internet purchase of chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine and had it shipped to his residence in De Soto.

Investigators contacted Zimmerman Thursday and received his permission to search the house at 34055 W. 86th Terrace, Erickson said. In one of the home's closets, officers found chemicals, glassware and equipment used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

With that discovery, Zimmerman was charged with manufacturing of illegal drugs, possession of a precursor and possession of drug paraphernalia, Erickson said.

"He hadn't had the chance to start a major manufacturing operation," Erickson said. "He had the ability to do it; he just hadn't got to the point of starting."

Zimmerman remained in Johnson County Jail with his bond set at $150,000, Erickson said. However, the Kansas Department of Corrections has placed a no-release order on Zimmerman for a parole violation from his previous conviction of indecent liberties with a child, Erickson said.

It is not illegal to possess any of the chemicals used in methamphetamine's production, Erickson said. Owned in combination, it becomes illegal as a precursor to manufacture of the drug.

The order of large quantities for certain chemicals can arouse suspicion, as it did in this case.

Thursday's arrest was the first bust of a meth lab in De Soto since 2000 and the second in Johnson County this year. Overall, a law enforcement emphasis on shutting down meth labs after their numbers exploded in Kansas and Missouri about a decade ago seems to have paid off. According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 847 meth labs were discovered in Kansas in 2001 (fourth in the nation). That number declined to 168 in 2006.

"The number of meth lab seizures have definitely gone down," Erickson said. "Some of that, I'm sure, is the control of Sudafed, which is the one precursor you absolutely have to have."

The crackdown on domestic meth labs hasn't translated to a decrease of the drug's availability, which now finds it way north from Mexico, Erickson said.

In addition to supplying a dangerous drug, meth labs are health hazards that contaminate production sites through the manufacturing process, mishandling of material and illegal disposal of waste chemicals. In use there is the potential for explosions and fires, Erickson said.

"Anytime you have those chemicals involved in the manufacture, you have to have a special team come in and remove it and cleanup," he said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency assisted Friday in the removal and cleanup of the meth lab, Erickson said.

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