'Shake and bake' meth a growing problem in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - KCPD tells 41 Action News the number of meth lab investigations has more than doubled since 2011. Last year, the KCPD Meth Unit investigated 28 labs, so far in 2012 they're on their 65th meth investigation.

Meth use in the Kansas City area has been a problem for more than a decade. During that time, the method to make the drug has changed. Safe guards went into effect in 2005 restricting purchases of one of the key components of meth -- Pseudoephedrine --  found in some over-the-counter cold medicine. But, now users may be getting the ingredients unknowingly from you. According to KCPD Sergeant Tim Witcig, users are now creating "smurfing" networks.

"They run around and grab pills. They get people to buy ephedrine pills for them," Witcig said.

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Sgt. Witcig and his meth team are on call 24 hours a day. His team is made up of detectives, forensic specialists and chemists. In the past their investigations started inside a house or apartment after a meth lab explosion. These days the cooking space can be anywhere, found at anytime, by anyone.

"Now with the shake and bake model where they are using a 20 oz. soda bottle they don't need that heat source. The chemical reaction does it all on its own."

Witcig points out you don't have a chemist to figure out these new methods to cook meth, which makes it even more dangerous.

"So you have to hide somewhere, so that's why you're finding it in an abandoned building or you're finding it in abandoned home or you go off into the woods in a city park."

Even at the federal level Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Jeffery Scott has seen even smaller lab users coming up with creative ways to hide their stash.

"We've seen them sewn into clothing. We've seen them hidden in cars. We've seen them hidden in fruit and vegetables," Scott said.

And the by-product is just as dangerous.

"If you create a pound of meth. You're going to leave behind about six to seven pounds of hazardous waste product," Scott said

And if someone should pick it up the whole thing could explode.

"It's sitting there on the ground waiting for the good Samaritan to come pick it up," Witcig said.

Now that Pseudoephedrine is harder to get cooks are using all kinds of household items. In his mobile meth lab, Witcig demonstrates how some cooks open and strip lithium batteries and use even fertilizers.

Witcig wants people to be aware of picking up random soda bottles in parks. If you think you have stumbled upon a meth lab call 911. 

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