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Indiana State Police Trooper Charles Pirtle points to Crawford County on a map indicating the number of meth labs seized in Indiana in recent years Saturday morning at the 59th Crawford County SWCD annual meeting. (Photos by Chris Adams)

'You are our eyes and ears'


Police warn those at 59th SWCD annual meeting of dangers of meth lab residue


February 13, 2008
Saturday morning's 59th annual meeting of the Crawford County Soil and Water Conservation District served as a wake-up call to landowners who may have thought that the methamphetamine problem couldn't affect them.

Indiana State Police Trooper Charles Pirtle, assisted by Indiana Conservation Officers Terry Allen and Dennis Talley, gave video and slideshow presentations that showed how dangerous meth can be.

Allen told those gathered at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School that the goal was to "show you a few things that will hopefully help us. … You are our eyes and ears."

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Winners of the SWCD school poster contest were: kindergarten through first grade — first place, Jadin Wolf; second place, Briann Hager; third place, Hannah Speedy; second and third grades — first place, Helen Baylie Bean; second place, Lance Sturgeon; third place, Madison Eastridge; fourth and fifth grades — first place, Tierney Robbins; second place, Taylor Torstrick; third place, Dakota Yates; and sixth and seventh grades — first place, Courtney Crecelius; second place, Shawna Johnson; third place, Danielle Mottern.
While law enforcement and legislative efforts have helped, meth labs, which began appearing in Crawford County about 10 years ago, remain a dangerous problem, he said.

Therefore, Pirtle said, it is important for residents to know what meth labs and meth trash look like not only so they can help police in their investigations, but to keep from accidentally getting hurt — or even killed.

Pirtle said without proper education it can be difficult to know what to look for, admitting that he didn't know much about meth during his first year as a trooper.

"I probably ran into labs all the time and didn't know it," he said.

Meth trash, often discarded along the sides of roads, may contain empty cans of ether, such as starting fluid, that have holes punched in their bottoms and empty blister packs for cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine, Pirtle said. While bags of trash may look innocent enough, they could contain residue that when disturbed creates toxic fumes, he said.

"Stay away from it and contact us as soon as possible," he said.

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Billy Joe Walker of the SWCD Board of Supervisors, left, presents Meredith and Frances Jones and their son, Glenn, with the Master Farmer Conservation Award.
Pirtle also urged those in the audience to be careful when stumbling across an actual lab. Labs, he said, may contain modified propane tanks that are often painted black that meth manufacturers use to house anhydrous ammonia, which they often steal from farmers, and strips of lithium removed from batteries. Both are dangerous, with the latter capable of combusting when coming in contact with moisture, he said.

"Keep in mind you're not going to always see all this stuff together," Allen added, explaining that they are all pieces of a puzzle that can be beneficial to an investigation.

The short video highlighted the impact meth has on children, showing disheartening images of kids found at the site of the labs being carried away in the protective suits worn by clean-up crews.

"It upsets me every time I see it," Pirtle said, later adding that 35 percent of children found at the labs test positive for meth.

Meth is popular among drug users and dealers because it is as easy to make as baking a cake from scratch and the ingredients are all easily attainable, Pirtle. State lawmakers have tried to make it more difficult to purchase medication containing pseudoephedrine in bulk by requiring signatures and placing a limit on the amount that can be bought, he said.

"It's an inconvenience, but I'd rather it be an inconvenience if we could help somebody get off this" or find the labs and help keep children safe, Pirtle said.

The average meth manufacturer will teach 10 other people how to make the drug, which can be taken several different ways, including snorting and injecting, he said.

Users are drawn to meth because the euphoria it induces lasts much longer, Pirtle said. However, it also has a much stronger addiction, he said, noting only 6 percent of users are able to get clean.

Meth users, Pirtle said, are easily detected because they lose an incredible amount of weight over time and often have meth sores from scratching "their skin down to the bone" because they imagine bugs are crawling on them and infections on their faces and arms from where they have injected themselves.

He added they also tend to be paranoid, are extremely nervous and have insomnia, often going out at night. Pirtle cautioned against flashing a light in someone's eyes whom they suspect might be on meth, noting it could cause a dangerous situation.

"Just that light in their eyes could set them off and (cause them to) have hallucinations," he said.

Pirtle said meth users also tend to be armed, in part because of their paranoia.

"I don't think I've ever been to a meth lab and we didn't find guns," he added.

Pirtle said the ISP is willing to speak to churches and other groups about the dangers of methamphetamine.

Also at Saturday's annual meeting, which kicked off with the traditional pancake breakfast, Meredith and Frances Jones and their son, Glenn, received the Master Farmer Conservation Award.

Meredith and Frances built their house on Francis' family farm in 1949. Since then, they've added buildings and acreage, which now totals 270. They operated a dairy and grain farm from 1952 until retiring in 1987.

The Joneses also raised chickens for 10 years. They had a chicken house that held 1,000 heavy breed, and during their last year, they put 3,000 leghorns in it, getting as many as 2,500 eggs per day.

Their son, Glenn, who was born in 1956, has been part of the family farm his entire life.

Other honorees included:

•Donald Daugherty, who received the River Friendly Farmer Award, for conservation efforts on his 160-acre farm at Milltown that included a prescribed grazing system with 11 paddocks.

•Eric Anderson and Kathy Anderson, who received the Crawford County Forestry Award for efforts, including adding a wildlife conservation pond and completing numerous timber-stand projects, on their 93 acres of forest land near Milltown. The first timber sale on the land was completed in early 2007. It was considered an "improvement cut" because the timber selection was designed to improve the quality of the forest by taking only over-mature and overstocked trees while leaving most of the high quality trees.

•Spencer Lee Taylor, who was named the Crawford County Conservation Farmer of the Year. Taylor, who took over the management of the cattle operation of his and his brothers on their farms in 1997, instigated the fencing off and planting of trees along one mile of Cider Fork Creek, pasture improvement and rotating grazing. He has also done timber-stand improvement.

In addition, winners of the school poster contest, whose theme was "Water is Life," were presented a trophy, certificate and gift certificate from Video Connection in Marengo.

Winners were:

•Kindergarten through first grade: First place, Jadin Wolf; second place, Briann Hager; and third place, Hannah Speedy.

•Second and third grades: First place, Helen Baylie Bean; second place, Lance Sturgeon; and third place, Madison Eastridge.

•Fourth and fifth grades: First place, Tierney Robbins; second place, Taylor Torstrick; and third place, Dakota Yates.

•Sixth and seventh grades: First place, Courtney Crecelius; second place, Shawna Johnson; and third place, Danielle Mottern.

In other matters,

•Billy Joe Walker was re-elected and Richard Langdon was re-appointed to the SWCD Board of Supervisors.

•Representatives of several agencies, including USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, South Central Indiana Livestock Marketing Cooperative, Crawford County Junior-Senior High School FFA and Crawford County 4-H Council Inc., gave updates.

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