One arrested after authorities find alleged meth lab in Rifle
A Rifle resident was arrested last week for suspected methamphetamine production in his home.Brent Allen Lucas, 44, is charged with possession of one or more chemicals with intent to manufacture a schedule II controlled substance. Members of the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) made the arrest Thursday after consulting with members of the Rifle Police Department.TRIDENT members and Rifle police went to the home and conducted a consensual search of the residence, finding instructions for manufacturing methamphetamine, red phosphorus, hydrogen peroxide, starting fluid, muriatic acid and acetone, according to an agency press release. All of these things are components of a meth lab, the release said.The charge is a felony and could result in two to four years in prison with a $3,000 to $750,000 fine. The release said that Lucas was also arrested for two warrants out of Washington state, one for alleged possession of methamphetamine and marijuana and a probation violation, and the other for attempted theft, conspiracy and trespass.”As far as I know, this is the first [meth lab-related arrest] we’ve been involved in in this area,” said Gene Schilling, chairman of TRIDENT’s board of directors. “It seems to be a more up-and-coming problem.”Schilling said people have called to report strange, acrid smells that could be related to meth production, but labs have never been found. In Denver, however, Schilling said the problem with meth production is severe. The area’s North Metro Task Force says it is spending more time being reactive to suspected meth labs than they are being proactive about any other drug.But methamphetamine is a drug with a reputation for plaguing rural areas with its production and resulting addictions. According to a March article in Newsweek, it’s the No. 1 drug in rural America.The article also says that the popularity of the drug has skyrocketed. In the last year police encountered more than 9,300 meth labs in this country – that’s more than 500 percent more than in 1996.The drug is known to be highly addictive; it can be smoked, snorted or injected. It’s also known to be hard to prosecute because its production involves a number of substances that can be obtained legally. Manufacturing the drug is also extremely dangerous, as it can result in combustion and a number of toxic fumes.Officers from TRIDENT and the Drug Enforcement Administration secured the scene in Rifle, and Denver-based Coldwell Environmental Associates Inc. disposed of the hazardous materials and chemicals allegedly at the site.”Fumes from the stuff they make meth with can get in the walls, and people can get sick, nauseous and headaches from breathing the air in buildings where meth was made,” Schilling said.One rural community fights backIn Craig, the police chief said his community has a “significant problem” with methamphetamine.Walt Vanatta said his officers began noticing that many people arrested during the past year-and-a-half were carrying the drug and, often, guns. Methamphetamine can cause paranoia, leading users to buy weapons.The meth addiction in Craig has lead to a certain amount of elevated crime, he said, like theft to pay for the next high.To combat the problem, a number of citizens decided it was time to form a community-based task force to get people involved with how to deal with meth use, labs and sales. Annette Gianinetti is one of the founding members of Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse.”Our mission statement is to identify, educate, rehabilitate and eradicate meth in our community,” she said. “At this point we have a police officer doing tons of public awareness classes with us.”Gianinetti said she doesn’t think that meth use is more rampant in rural areas. She said the drug is everywhere, but it’s more recognizable in small communities where people know one another better. She said she thinks that once people recognize meth labs and use of the drug, they’ll start seeing it more often, even in Rifle.”So many people are cooking it – people want more of it and production has to keep up,” she said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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