Officer Works Meth Bust

Missouri has lost its long-standing, infamous title of the No. 1 meth state in the country.

For the first time in more than a decade, Missouri has dropped from the top spot to No. 3, according to just-released methamphetamine incident statistics for the state and the U.S.

There were 1,495 meth lab incidents reported in 2013, down from 1,960 meth labs investigated in 2012.

Indiana supplanted Missouri at the top last year with 1,797 meth labs. Tennessee came in second place with 1,545 meth incidents reported in 2013.

Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit, said Missouri has led the country in meth labs since 2001.

“I celebrate the fact that we dropped out of first place,” Grellner remarked. “But we still had 1,500 labs last year.”

Labs Down in County

Franklin County, meanwhile, posted a sharp decrease in meth lab incidents in the past year.

There were 68 incidents investigated in 2013 compared to 102 lab reports in 2012.

The local task force investigated 97 meth labs in 2011, which was down from 106 in 2010.

“We still attribute the reduction in meth labs to the growing trend of cities and counties passing local laws requiring prescriptions to buy medicines containing pseudoephedrine,” Grellner said.

Pseudoephedrine is the vital ingredient needed to make meth.

Grellner said the “deepest drop” in county meth labs came in the last quarter of 2013 after two Walgreens stores in Fenton voluntarily adopted a prescription-only policy.

“Up until then, we could track the largest percentage of pseudoephedrine sales used in labs here to those two stores and the Wal-Mart at Fenton,” Grellner explained.

He said the Fenton stores adopted the policy after seeing a sharp increase in thefts of other meth lab-related items by people who came in groups to buy pseudoephedrine. Also, the stores were finding used syringes in bathrooms and on parking lots, he noted.

Grellner said in January 2013, the Walgreens store on Boles Road sold 1,161 boxes of pseudoephedrine. That dropped to 92 boxes in January 2014 after the prescription policy was adopted. Of the 92 boxes, 44 were Zephrex-D, the new formulation that can’t be used to make meth, he said.

The Walgreens store at Gravois Bluffs sold 727 boxes of pseudoephedrine in January 2013, compared to 96 boxes in January 2014. Seventy of the 92 sales were for Zephrex-D.

“We’ve yet to find Zephrex-D at any of the meth lab sites we’ve investigated,” Grellner said.

In February 2013, 1,074 boxes of pseudoephedrine were sold at the Boles store. That number dropped to 95 in February 2014 and 37 of those were Zephrex-D, Grellner noted.

At the Gravois Bluffs Walgreens, the number of sales dropped from 704 boxes in February 2013 to 55 in the same month this year, after the prescription policy was adopted.

Those numbers prove that before, the pseudoephedrine sold at those stores was being diverted to make meth and that the prescription policy works, Grellner stated.

Southeastern Missouri, where prescription laws have been passed in virtually every county and city where pharmacies are located, has seen a dramatic drop in meth labs over the last years, as shown by the statistics.

Fourth in State

Franklin County, with 68 labs, had the fourth highest number of labs in the state last year.

Jefferson County, again, was No. 1, with 223 labs, followed by St. Charles County, 119, and St. Louis County with 74 lab incidents, according to the 2013 report.

Police agencies in Missouri classify meth lab incidents into three categories: operational/nonoperational labs, chemical/glassware/equipment seizures, and lab dump sites.

All law enforcement agencies in the state are required to report the seizure of methamphetamine laboratories to the patrol which then enters Missouri’s seizures into the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System, which is maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration at the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) in El Paso, Texas.

Here are the year-by-year lab totals reported in Missouri since 2007:

• 2007, 1,285;

• 2008, 1,487;

• 2009, 1,774;

• 2010, 1,960; and

• 2011, 2,096.

Lab numbers in other recent years for Franklin County were:

• 2006, 69;

• 2007, 50;

• 2008, 70; and

• 2009, 96.