United States. Congress. House. Committee on the J.

Rising scourge of methamphetamine in America : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, October 26, 1995 online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JRising scourge of methamphetamine in America : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, October 26, 1995 → online text (page 6 of 9)
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36

2. Methamphetamine impacts 80% of local case load for Services to Children and
Families.

3. Jackson County has one of the highest percentages of infants born exposed to
drugs (mostly methamphetamine).

4. Impact on local education system described as a "Crisis in the Wings" (ninth
grade health class examples).

5. Overview of problem is outlined in recent series of articles by local newspaper
(will provide copies).

C. Movement of epidemic

1. Spreading north and east from manufacturing source in California.

2. Spread of meth problem is tied to the increasing Mexican illegal alien issue.

II. DRAIN ON RESOURCES

A. Two-thirds of task force time is related to methamphetamine.

B. Drain occurs at all levels: law enforcement, corrections, treatment, social services,

education, etc.

III. SOLUTIONS/^RATEGIES

A. Getting control of our Mexican border

1. ImpactofN.A.F.T.A.

2. Production and initial distribution is primarily controlled by highly organized
Hispanic criminal groups. (Many are illegal aliens.).

B. Distribution of resources

1. There is a need for better distribution of resources between interdiction, treat-
ment and education. A systemic approach is necessary.

2. Fund programs that stress the co-operation and collaboration between these
groups.

a. Example — Family Addition Community Team (F.A.C.T.) working on local
drug strategy

b. Example — referrals of pregnant women at search warrants to education
and treatment programs.

C. Other areas where federal programs / departments could aid local law enforcement:

1. Closer working arrangements between DEA, FBI, INS, and local drug teams.

2. Testifying witness program targeting high school age offenders.

3. Continued support through assignment of National Guard personnel to assist
local counter drug efforts.

4. Appearance of a case load "bottleneck" at federal prosecution level. Inconsistent
or fluctuating "thresholds" for adoption of cases for federal prosecution.

5. Drug testing in the workplace.

IV. TIME TO ACT IS NOW TO CURB THIS SOCIAL EPIDEMIC

Mr. McCoLLUM. Thank you, Lieutenant Mayer. Sergeant
Sanchez, you're welcome to give us your thoughts.

STATEMENT OF SGT. JOHN SANCHEZ, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT
OF PUBLIC SAFETY, PHOENIX, AZ

Mr, Sanchez. Again, I appreciate the chance to sit here and tes-
tify in this manner. This is definitely a pleasure, and I hope that
I can enlighten you a little bit.

There's been a lot of discussion on the statistics and different
things that we've all touched on. Basically, I run the clandestine
drug lab for our unit, and I started at one point with five or six
officers and due to budget cuts and other situations that took place
in the political end, our department was cut back. Right now, I am
working with two officers and myself, and a third officer is dedi-
cated to another task force within DEA. So, actually, I have got two
officers and myself who are doing this in conjunction with DEA
personnel. So, as you can see, it all becomes an issue of personnel,



37

money, and those type of things I feel is really one of the main
problems in combating methamphetamine.

As far as statistics, in 1991, the National Household Survey on
Drug Abuse showed that an estimated 5.2 million Americans, 12
years of age and older, have used methamphetamine. Recent stud-
ies show mat there's approximately a 52-percent increase in the
number of emergency room episodes involving the abuse of meth-
amphetamine. And approximately 45 percent of those treated for
methamphetamine abuse reported being dependent on the drug.
The Phoenix area, according to their statistics, emergency room re-
ported cases of 281 in 1992 and it increased to 479 cases in 1993,
and in 1995 those cases are above that.

So, we're seeing an increase in emergency room situations in hos-
pitals, not only there, but also in the lower age brackets. In the
high school, junior high levels, I've given talks there also, and the
junior high level seems to be where it's found at this point in our
State, and in some cases even in a little lower age level, again, the
reason being that because of the fact that the ease of manufacture,
the cost of procuring the drug, the ease of intake into the system —
it's not like marijuana where you have to roll a joint and smoke
it, and everybody smells it; it can be taken in very quickly, very
easily, small amounts and it gets you to where you want to get.
You don't have to have the high percentages of purity also if you're
making your own.

The DPS Criminal Investigations Bureau seizures for 1993, as
far as methamphetamine, was 20 pounds; in 1994 was 51 pounds;
in 1995, 120 pounds in the first 6 months. Again, these seizures do
not include some of the smaller ones that were done with our high-
way patrol people which are the uniformed people. So, the statistic
would be much higher. In this unit that I'm working right now, as
of approximately April of this year, we've already established tak-
ing 75 pounds which is not included into this figure also. So, as you
can see, it's a growing problem in that respect.

The arrests for 1993 were 369, 1994 was 489, and in 1995 was
499 in the first 6 months of 1995. As far as cases submitted to the
lab for analysis, and that's excluding Phoenix PD, in 1992 was
1,395, 1993 was 2,961, in 1994 was 5,503 which gives about a 294.5
percent increase over a 2-year period.

Precursor chemicals submitted to our lab, again excluding Phoe-
nix PD, in 1992 was 19, in 1993 was 44, in 1994 was 72, again giv-
ing us well over a 278-percent increase over the 2-year period.

Over the years of 1990-1995, we have discovered approximately
170 active working labs. These are not just chemical call type labs
where somebody makes a stop and they find glassware or what-
ever. These are actually producing labs of 170. Those are the ones
that we know of, and you can probably double that in some re-
spects as far as just chemical calls, glassware, these type of things
that have not been included.

Again, some of the problems in dealing with this particular drug
as far as the user, and it's already been expounded on quite a bit,
is the high violence potential. I run a tactical team that does high
violence entries of primarily clandestine drug lab type entries.
There's only several teams that will do this mainly because of the
hazards involved. The atmosphere can become very poisonous, ex-



38

plosion, chemical contamination, and violence potential, from the
weapon problem with the suspects inside. So, this is one of the
things that becomes very important to what I'm doing. There's,
again, weapons involvement. There normally is always high veloc-
ity type weapon involvement — Mack-10's, Tech-9's, Uzis, mini Uzis,
street sweepers which is an automatic 12 gauge shotgun, these
type of things.

Again, there's always the potential for infectious diseases. We
had a situation not too long ago that we were asked to make an
entry on some people that were methamphetamine abusers. Hepa-
titis B was the problem that they had, and that is an infectious dis-
ease that is airborne. Again, you're talking HIV, which is very com-
mon with drug abusers. These are the kind of things that we con-
stantly are looking at and fighting with along with the normal vio-
lence that comes from the user.

In dealing with these clandestine labs, not every lab is a meth-
amphetamine lab. We've talked primarily about methamphetamine
here, and I see that this is the main position that we are on, but
what I would like to expound on is that a lot of these labs have
a lot of the same properties. One of those is explosion, another is
fires, another is the chemicals which are common in bomb produc-
ing labs. In most of your labs you have red-p which is red phos-
phorous. When you put that into what we call the soup, the glass-
ware and cook it, if it is not taken care of properly, it adheres to
the edges of the glassware, and at some point, if it's not kept cool,
it will turn to white phosphorous. And if you're familiar with na-
palm, it turns into a napalm bomb which becomes shock sensitive,
air sensitive. This is how a lot of these labs have been discovered,
by explosion. Basically it incinerates anything and everything
that's around it.

Boobytraps, some of the ones we have experienced have been cya-
nide type, 12 gauge shotgun shell type, gasoline type, what we call
an Armstrong mixture type. It's nothing more than a gumwrapper
looking piece of foil with red phosphorous, potassium chloride and
metal shavings or BB's, whichever the producer would like to use.
It would be set it on the floor or anywhere where you think a law
enforcement agent would contact it, basically to protect the lab, or
just to make sure that the suspects get the attention of the law en-
forcement agency making the entry. Something the size of a gum
wrapper, if you moved it — and became shock sensitive and air sen-
sitive, could take your fingers off. The danger being most people
will pick them up because their inquisitive and they're small.
Something that's maybe hand sized would be very, very lethal, and
again, you get shrapnel from that.

The gasoline-type boobytraps are the type where just a simple
electrical cord into a gas can in the next room, next door, wherever,
combined with the chemicals in the clandestine lab — a suspect in-
side sees people coming, switches on a light switch, and ignites the
gasoline can and incinerates the entire area.

The shotgun shells are easily made. Those are galvanized pipe,
shotgun shell inside, mousetrap hits the ignitor on the bottom of
the shell, hitting somewhere around the lower abdomen where the
body armor doesn't cover.



39

So, these are the type of things that we've run into along with
the sodium cyanide placed in sulfuric acid or some other type of
acid where it tips over and causes a caustic, poisonous atmosphere.
If you're not wearing protective wear or breathing apparatus, then
again the immediate hazard is there as far as death with this type
of boobytrap.

Toxic chemicals, as everybody has talked about, for the most
part, there's a lot of toxic chemicals involved. We've talked mainly
about ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, I've mentioned red-p. There's a
multitude of other ones — phenylacetic acid, muriatic acid, which is
basically just pool acid, sulfuric acid. It goes on and on and on. A
lot of these are compatible; a lot of them aren't compatible, which
makes it even harder because most of these people who are cooking
do not keep their things labeled; they are not the best chemists in
the world, and, basicafly, they are going off recipes that have been
written down and memorized or they've gone out and bought it
through a bookstore, through the Internet, on a computer system,
whatever. There is one that can be purchased, and it tells you ex-
actly how to build the methamphetamine, what glassware to use,
how to avoid the police, how to testify in court, all these type of
things, which again makes it very, very hard for law enforcement
to keep a handle on people making it.

One of the other biggies that we run into a lot is decontamina-
tion or the cleanup of tnese areas. That is probably one of the big-
gest issues that we run into. The Federal Government, DEA, basi-
cally has the moneys to do this. On the State, municipals, and
county levels there is no money that I know of, since I've been in-
volved in this, to access in order to do these cleanups, and it can
go from just a simple ignition of chemicals out in the desert by an
EOD personnel, explosives ordinance expert, to completely disman-
tling the house, walls, concrete, carpet, washing machines, dryers,
depending on where this clandestine lab is located. A lab can go
anything from a jar size to a large factory, it depends on what you
are wanting to make. There's a cold cook and there's a hot cook.
On the chemistry end of it, there's actually only one type of cook,
meaning it's a hot cook. On the law enforcement end of it, the hot
cook is something where you put heat into the product such as a
burner where you produce a flame or heat to the chemicals them-
selves. On a cold cook, there is no flame, you allow the chemicals
themselves to be mixed and cause the heat reaction within the ves-
sel that it is in.

That in itself is a very, very dangerous situation in that at the
wrong moment, if you are not paying attention to what you are
doing, and you happen to open up this particular jar ambian air
can ignite it causing a fireball. So, there's different dangers in-
volved with that type of situation. Again, the cleanup can become
very costly once these things explode over the particular area caus-
ing contamination.

Some figures on decontamination cleanup that are derived from
the DEA chemical waste management stats. For fiscal year of 1993,
for the State of Arizona, $30,691; in 1994, $124,145; and in 1995
$122,821 with an average of about $4,500 per call. Some of these
I've seen go a lot higher than that. As you can see there's no agen-
cy, that I know of, that could go to a lab and absorb these type of



40

costs just because of the budget restraints that are put on each
agency whether on the State or municipal level.

Our agency, again, does not do that. We process the lab situation
for whatever agency asks for the assistance. If it's our investiga-
tion, of course, then we always ask DEA to be involved. Again, with
the fact that the DEA really always needs to be involved because
of that particular cleanup process. When I talk to other agencies,
they are well aware that we have to work as a multiagency group
when it comes to this type of a situation.

Mr, McCoLLUM. Sergeant Sanchez, we're going to have to inter-
rupt your testimony. I think you are near your conclusion, but we
have a vote in progress. We don't have any then for quite some
time after this vote, so with you, Agent Waller, and Lieutenant
Mayer we'll be back in probably 10 or 15 minutes at the most and
finish with you.

Thank you very much, and I'm sorry we're having to recess.
We're in recess.

[Recess.]

Mr. McCoLLUM. The subcommittee will come to order. When we
took our recess for the voting on the floor. Sergeant Sanchez, I be-
lieve you were concluding your statement, and I'd be more than
happy to recognize you to fmish.

I think I'm right about that, you're getting close to it. That's my
interpretation. I've been following your script. I'm not trying to
rush you, but you've been following this pretty well.

Mr. Sanchez. No, I would like a brief moment to kind of catch
my breath and just get my mind back in gear here because this is
one of those situations where it's a first time situation for me.

Mr. McCoLLUM. Well, take your time.

Mr. Sanchez. I think we left off with the decontamination and
cleanup situation on labs, and just to kind of characterize that situ-
ation, it becomes not just a money issue but a political issue
amongst agencies. We've talked about multiagencies working to-
gether. In the State of Arizona, DEA, basically if you do not call
them, and they're not involved in the investigation, there is no
cleanup money. So that department who has come onto the lab
whether by accident or by their investigative needs ends up having
to at some point absorb, along with the property owner the cost of
cleanup which is very substantial.

So, that is one of the things that becomes a real problem, and
one of the ways to try to deal with this is again, it's a money issue.
I hate to keep saying that because I think that's what everybody
does is they always ask for personnel and money. That seems to
be the biggest gripe. In this respect, it is a very big issue when it
comes to clandestine labs whether it be for methamphetamine, a
bomb lab, a steroid lab, a PCP lab. There's just so many different
types of labs, and you don't know until you actually get there as
to what you have. But they do all have that common factor and
that's contamination. Contamination to the air, the living area as
to where it's at whether it be in a mobile home, in a U-Haul trailer,
in an apartment, in somebodies home that they rented out a room,
contamination to the groundwater, the ground in respects to the
backyard, the front yard, where ever they're dumping their waste



41

product, the house itself, ceiling, wall, air ducts. All these things
are places that are contaminated.

And if you go in and rent a house, for instance, where a lab was
and you didn't know about it, the owner didn't know about it, and
smells a little funny, but you rent it anyway. Then about a month,
maybe a week later, you nnd yourself, your kids, your dog starting
to get sick, picking up coughs, things of that nature. And then you
find out that there was a lab there and the contamination was
pretty heavy and it wasn't decontaminated. The long-term health
issues are one of the things that I think this committee needs to
really look at due to this type of situation.

As an officer that runs a team that makes entries into these
places, it affects me also and my unit because we don't know if 4
or 5 years down the road, or 10 years down the road, whether we're
going to have to have a spleen removed or a kidney problem or
something of that nature. Nobody really knows the long-term effect
of being exposed over and over and over again to these type of situ-
ations.

The cooks know to some extent. We've run into a lot of cooks that
have no fingernails or toenails, their skin is peeling off, big time
sores, hair falling out, no eyebrows — all these things that happen
when a human body absorbs things that it can't fight off, and will
continue to keep within it's system no matter what you do even
after you think you've washed it off with water or whatever.

So, in reality, with these labs as far as the cleanup is concerned,
that's one of the main issues that I was hoping to bring to this par-
ticular forum, and hopefully at some point that can be dealt with,
and that would end a lot of political issues and multiagency prob-
lems that have happened in the past.

The drug methamphetamine is basically a designer drug. There's
a lot of designer drugs out there, but methamphetamine is again
one of those type of drugs, and its chemicals are very easy and
equipment is very easy to get. There isn't a person here in this
room that I couldn't walk into their house for the most part, with
the exception of maybe a few chemicals, and get the things that I
would need to put a lab, a small lab, a table top lab to make an
ounce or so together which would keep me for quite awhile if I was
a user. Things that you have such as coffee filters, your coffee ca-
rafe. For heat, you would use your stove, a Coleman two-burner
stove if you have that, if you camp a lot. If you don't have coffee
filters, use bedsheets, use underwear, use socks. If you don't have
glassware, use plastic jugs, and keep an eye on the heat conditions.
And, again, this would get into the cold process.

As far as solvents, we all have solvents. If you have a pool,
you've got pool acid. You have sulfuric acid, battery acid, lighter
fluid, charcoal, regular charcoal and grind it up. All of us here have
used at some point pseudoephedrine. You probably still are. If
you're taking Tylenol Sinus, if you go to a grocery store, you go to
get any kind of decongestant, it's got pseudoephedrine in it. If you
buy several cases of this, and we're talking you have to buy hun-
dreds, thousands of tabs to make maybe an ounce or two because
of all the buffers and binders are involved there. But you buy
those, go to different stores, grind them up in a coffee grinder,
throw them in a gallon jar with any kind of clear liquid, water, ace-



42

tone, you name it, let it sit for several days, a week, whatever it
may be, what ever process you're using.

Let those buffers separate, they go to the floor of the jar, you
skim the top of it, and now you've got your pseudoephedrine. You
let it dry, or if you don't you just throw it wet into whatever your
mixture is. So, these are the kind of things that are very, very hard
on the law enforcement end to control.

Education, we've talked about the educational end of it. I think
we need to not only educate law enforcement, because there are of-
ficers out there that do not know what ephedrine looks like or
smells like. Narcotic dogs do not hit on ephedrine, that's why we
have a problem at the border with dogs, and actually anywhere in
the United States unless they are specifically used for that particu-
lar chemical. And I don't know of any as of yet.

The whole system from the grocery stores, the drugstores, the
feedstores, the kids in school, the teachers, need to know what to
look for. Our legal system, the legislature, the courts, the prosecu-
tors, it all has to come in combination. Dealing in the conspiracy
manner, you don't have to have the product meth amphetamine or
the product amphetamine.

I don't think the conspiracy factor has been talked much about.
If you have people that are picking up the chemicals, picking up
the glassware, know what the recipe is, or have a place to go do
the cook, or any kind of involvement, that's what we are after. We
want to get everybody involved because the way things are working
now it's not just one person. You may have 10 or 12 people in-
volved. One that's supplying the money, one that's supplying the
chemicals, one that's supplying the glassware, one that's supplying
the place, one that's supplying the recipe, and on and on and on.
So, the conspiracy is the other fact that we deal with and makes
it hard for law enforcement to put these people behind bars be-
cause of the prosecution stages it has to go through and again, if
the prosecutor and the court system is not into this type of a case
then they have problems educating themselves as to whether they
really want to take the case or not.

Again, the profit margin I believe is higher; less money spent,
somebody mentioned $500 earlier. You could probably get away
with a couple of hundred. And if you used your home products, and
your rubber gloves and things that you have at home, without even
having to leave your house. Or steal it. That goes on and on in all
of our stores, shoplifting. That's mainly the way that a lot of these
guys get what they get.

One of the things that I think would decrease the manufacturing,
trafficking and use of methamphetamine would be better control of
precursors which has been talked about. Ephedrine,
pseudoephedrine, H.I. hydriodic acid, iodine crystals, red phos-
phorous, ether. And many more. I don't want to say that these are
the only precursors because there are very many chemicals in-
volved some that I can't even pronounce. But ether is one of the
things that was much used in the beginning of clandestine drug
labs. That's why a lot of them exploded and burned. A lot of these
guys have circumvented that by using other chemicals that aren't
as flammable and explosive.



43

So, we don't see ether as much anymore, but when we do see it,
it is a very, very big concern, because when you're Hving next door
to somebody who is doing this type of operation, I'll guarantee you
that if that lab blows up, you are going to know it. Maybe you're
not going to know it depending on the size of the explosion and the
fireball. So, consequently, control of some of these things, and keep-
ing in mind that one of these could be very close to you, even on
the highway in a mobile home — and this is one of the things that
we hear about and have had is going from one State to another
doing the cook on the roadway turning around, you've got your
product and you come back home. The chances of being stopped for
this reason or for any reason is very, very low unless something
happens and that mobile home blows up or they get a flat and an
officer stops to help them or something of that nature, and whether
it's highway patrol or whether it's a city or municipal officer.

Better education into the general public and into the legal sys-
tem. I've touched on that, I think everybody has. The general pub-
lic again grocery owners, store owners of any type, just letting
them know how easy it is. If you see somebody going home with
a case of lighter fluid, he's either going to put together a heck of
a barbecue or he's using it for a solvent. If he's buying pounds and
pounds of ice, and he doesn't have an ice chest in his car or truck,
or he's walking out with a case of Tylenol Sinus or whatever you
want to use — again, to alert the agency that is in their area. Get
a plate number, some type of ID, if they can, and turn that infor-


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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JRising scourge of methamphetamine in America : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, October 26, 1995 → online text (page 6 of 9)