Meth lab busts hit record high in N.C., but Lee County reports none in 2012

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

Methamphetamine lab busts reached an all-time high across the state in 2012, but numbers are down locally, according to a state report released this week.

No meth lab busts were reported in in Lee and Moore counties, but there were 10 in Harnett and two in Chatham, according to a North Carolina Department of Justice report.

"We do see meth in Sanford and have made arrests in the past year," said Capt. John Holly of the Lee County Sheriff's Narcotics Division. "We have had several labs over the last two or three years, but did not have a lab in 2012."

The limits on meth ingredients — including the over-the-counter sale of pseudoephedrine — have led to local decreases, and there are many times, Holly said, when law enforcement agencies will work together to bust a location where the psychostimulant is known to be manufactured in various counties.

"We have a lot of information passing back and forth," Holly said. "And even in Harnett County, it's in the southern end around Sampson and Johnson (counties). We don't see it on the western side."

Despite frequent meth arrests for possession in Lee County, there has been an increase in of prescription pill abuse and heroin use.

"In the last six to eight months, there has been a drastic increase in heroin use and sells," Holly said. "And I have been told by my counterparts around the state, there is an influx around the state."

When law enforcement officers increased their efforts to crack down on prescription pills, heroin got a boost in sales because of its similar affects and cheaper pricing, Holly said.

"We see all kinds of drugs," he said. "Whether it's information on meth or meth labs, we are going to aggressively follow up."

Statewide, 460 meth lab busts were reported in 2012, up from 344 in 2011 and 235 in 2010.

"Prevention efforts have helped hold down the number of larger meth labs, but small ones are still very dangerous," said N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper in a news release accompanying the report. "We need more law enforcement, better public awareness and continued use of technology to fight this crime."

Wilkes County had the highest number of meth lab busts with 59, followed by Wayne County with 27, Catawba County with 26, Burke County with 24 and Anson County with 21.

Law enforcement officers are seeing an increase of labs in urban and suburban areas, with almost all of those labs being one pot meth labs, according to the release.

These smaller meth labs first appeared in North Carolina in 2009, produce little waste or evidence for the cook to dispose of and are still considered dangerous.

North Carolina meth lab busts in 2012:

Statewide: 460

Lee County: 0

Chatham County: 2

Harnett County: 10

Moore County: 0