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PRCSO leads in coastal meth busts

Six months into the year and the Pearl River County’s Sheriff’s Department is leading the coastal region in finding and closing methamphetamine labs.

Since January of this year the department has sent in 72 methamphetamine labs for analysis to the Mississippi Crime Lab, said Director Sam Howell.

Harrison County is just behind Pearl River County, turning in 60 labs so far this year, Howell said. The crime lab director said Pearl River County has a very active law enforcement agency that is doing a good job of finding the labs.

Howell said the Mississippi Crime lab has seen a large increase in number of clandestine labs submitted to the Gulfport office. He attributes the increase in labs sent in to the crime lab to the increased activity of law enforcement agencies in the southern region.

“They’ve made a concerted effort to work on the problem,” Howell said.

The region includes George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River and Stone Counties.

Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison said he is proud of his narcotics agents for their efforts. He said their success would not be possible without members of the community notifying the department of strange smells in the area. Allison said concerned residents who notice strange chemical smells, such as ammonia, should call the department. If deputies and investigators go out to the area and smell what they suspect to be a methamphetamine lab, it will give them probable cause to check the area.

Chief Investigator Donnie Saucier said the majority of the labs the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department has found are “shake and bake” labs. Those kind of labs are popular because they are less complicated, utilize a quick method of production and the ingredients are readily available. Saucier said the team of narcotics agents at the Sheriff’s Department are making strides in reducing the number of active labs.

Not only does the presence of a lab create a health hazard, since they are known to explode on occasion, they are costly and time consuming to clean up. Saucier said that every time a lab is found the Sheriff’s Department does the preliminary work to make the area safe and calls the Drug Enforcement Agency to send out a Hazardous Materials team. That whole process of cleaning up a lab takes anywhere from six to 10 hours.

Methamphetamine use has been known to have a number of short and long term effects. Short term effects include decreased appetite and sleep and an increase in euphoria, attention and respiration. Long term effects include paranoia, hallucinations, memory loss, weight loss and severe dental problems, according to http://www.nida.nih.gov/ResearchReports/Methamph/methamph3.html#short.

“It’s amazing what that drug will do to you,” Allison said.

Some long term users have been known to age in appearance. Allison said he is familiar with a woman who has been arrested several times in the past three years by the Sheriff’s Department. While she is only in her mid 20s, Allison said she appears to be in her 60s, with gray hair and wrinkles.

County residents who have or know someone with a drug problem, including methamphetamine use, are encouraged to seek help. Pearl River County has a drug rehabilitation program through the Chancery Court office. Allison said that program is state funded and can help addicts get off the drugs.