Friday, March 15, 2013
A 54-year-old man has been arrested after the Reno County Drug Enforcement Unit finds, what it says, is an active meth lab on his property on the outskirts of Hutchinson.
The Drug Enforcement Unit made the discovery when they executed a search warrant at about 2:30 a.m. Thursday at 7101 Pony Acres Drive.
Officers say when they went inside, they found Jeffrey D. Hamilton, 54, alone in the process of making methamphetamine.
"The individual actually had a hot plate going with essentially a pot of drugs being cooked at the time," Reno County Sheriff's Captain Steve Lutz said.
Officers say they found all the ingredients for meth including peeled lithium batteries, rock salt, and ammonia.
They say they also seized 30 guns.
"There happen to be two of them had been reported stolen previously," Lutz said.
One of the stolen guns was traced back to Wichita and the other back to Hutchinson, officers said.
The kind of makeshift meth lab officers say they discovered on Hamilton's property is not a new occurrence in Reno County.
According to Drug Enforcement Administration statistics, Reno County ranks second in the state of Kansas behind Cherokee County for the number of contaminated labs identified during the past eight years. Reno County had 42, while Cherokee County had 46.
Lutz says it's possible the numbers are so high for Reno County because of the way the labs are counted in the statistics or because Reno County has a Drug Enforcement Unit that seeks the labs out.
But Lutz says he recognizes Reno County is in a unique geographical position that makes it a hot bed for this kind of drug activity.
"We have the city of Hutchinson here, Wichita and Salina so close with direct arteries to that, then we have such a rural area," Lutz said.
Tulsa County (Oklahoma) leads the nation with a whopping 979 identified lab sites.
"It's a very large problem across the country," Lutz said.
It's also an ever-changing problem to tackle for national and local law enforcement officers as methods of cooking meth evolve.
Most recently, the Reno County Sheriff's office says they've seen an increase in the "one-pot method." In this method, "cooks" often produce the meth in cars. It carries much higher fire danger, Lutz said.
"Each time we think we have an edge or we are gaining on it, something new pops up so it makes it extremely hard to fight it," Lutz said.
But like in this most recent case, it doesn't mean officers aren't going to try.
Hamilton was arrested on suspicion of manufacturing meth, possession of lithium with intent to manufacture meth, possession of pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture meth, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of anhydrous ammonia in an unapproved container.
He was booked into the Reno County jail Thursday morning and was held there on $137,500 bond. He posted that bond late Thursday.
He is scheduled to appear in district court on March 21, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.