Methamphetamine manufacturing and sales remain a significant crime problem in Missouri, according to a multi-jurisdictional drug task force.
Missouri currently ranks number two in the U.S. for the number of meth lab incidents discovered by law enforcement over the course of a year.
Detective Sergeant Shannon Jeffries of the Central Missouri M.U.S.T.A.N.G. Drug Task Force said although the number of meth lab incidents has decreased, increased methamphetamine trafficking and new manufacturing methods have compounded the difficulties his organization faces.
"I've seen a lot of families hurt by methamphetamine," Jeffries said. "I've seen kids hurt by methamphetamine, and it even affects neighborhoods and communities as a whole."
M.U.S.T.A.N.G. operates across central Missouri. Jeffries said their goal is to protect mid-Missourians and their livelihoods from the effects of the drug trade. In order to do that, he said, their task force of 12 highly trained officers investigates illegal narcotics complaints, drug manufacturing operations, trafficking, distribution and sales.
The 2013 figure for meth lab incidents in Missouri through October is 1,309, down 676 from 2012. Shannon explained that a "meth lab incident" can be anything from law enforcement's discovery of an active methamphetamine lab to finding a "dump site", where materials from a meth cook are discarded as waste.
Jeffries said manufacturing methamphetamine has gotten easier for cooks with the advent of the "shake and bake" method. 10 years ago, Jeffries said, the "iodine/red Phosphorous" method was the main way cooks used to manufacture methamphetamine. In that type of set up, electricity and a heating element are required.
In the "shake and bake" method, making methamphetamine is much easier for cooks, who simply mix a few chemicals in a plastic soda bottle in what is known as a "cold cook" method. The widespread availability of the types of chemicals used in the "shake and bake" method has decentralized production and made it easier for cooks to get away with their drug manufacturing before law enforcement can catch up.
"I believe that's one of the reasons why they're going to the shake and bake method," Jeffries said. "It takes a lot less chemicals, it takes a lot less time. This is something that can be done anywhere."
Many local law enforcement agencies lack the manpower to fight drugs and depend on M.U.S.T.A.N.G. to investigate drug-related crimes.
However, funding for Missouri's drug task forces is at an all time low.
â??I would take as many personnel as possible and as much funding as possible,â?? Jeffries said. Even though our finances are being cut, we aren't slowing down. We're still out there, still working. We're still trying to do what we can with what we've got.â??
Jeffries said M.U.S.T.A.N.G gets less than half the money it did when he started in 2002. He hopes Congress or the state legislature will make their fight a priority once again.
â??I do not believe that meth will ever disappear from Missouri,â?? Jeffries said. â??I do believe that one day it will be easier for us to combat meth labs and transportation of meth into Missouri.â??
â??The number of meth lab incidents is on a decrease in Missouri. So, that's probably one of the biggest things I've noticed,â?? Jeffries said.
â??Hopefully one day we'll have a handle on this. Hopefully.â??