Some of those who fight the making of methamphetamine in Kansas City don’t think the perils are clearly understood, by the public or by those who are manufacturing it.
Miniature meth labs have made the traditional big cooking operations almost obsolete.
Kansas City Police Sergeant Tim Witcig has seen the new garden variety grow since it surfaced in 2009.
“In 2011 I think we had 28 meth labs of that sort. This last year we had 68," he says. "So they’re well on their way.”
Witcig heads the Metro Meth Task Force, operating out of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. Most of their work is in Missouri towns and cities.
Evidence of this large number of small meth operations can be found discarded in city parks, empty lots, alleyways or just about anywhere out in the country.
Witcig describes the simple mixing in a 64 ounce plastic bottle, or solvent, stripped open lithium batteries, pseudophedrine cold medicine and a capful of water. When shaken, the power is awesomely dangerous.
“You’re betting it’s not going to burst into flames, solely upon a plastic soda bottle," says Witcig.
"What has happened is, that lithium strip hit water, instantly glows red and gets fire hot, slaps to the side of the plastic bottle and melts through the plastic bottle.”
Witcig has seen the chemical reaction and says an observer can look from a safe distance and watch an 8 or 12 foot flame come shooting out of that bottle.
"And this is what’s being cooked in the basement or first floor of an apartment building,” he says.
Meth makers feel more secure, says Witcig, if different people carry separate ingredients before coming together to cook. It’s hard to catch them.
“How do we get to a point where, we don’t know where, when, who or how they’re going to do it?" asks Witcig.
"That’s TV stuff there. We don’t have a script.”
Detectives on the Metro Meth Squad track people they know have made meth before and track a database that shows every legal pseudoephedrine sale in Missouri and hope they get lucky.
Witcig uses the word “hideous” to describe meth and what it does to a community.
Education and treatment will help, he says.
Witcig sees addicts who turn in other meth cookers, but he says it is not like there is no hope.
"There’s hope out there. It’s a slow process. Do I think we’re going to stop the meth lab scourge in 2013? Absolutely not. But we’re going to carry our end of the log. And hopefully everyone else will do what they can do as well.”
Witcig says next it is up to politicians, and the people that have the money to allocate resources to help stop the distribution of meth in Missouri.