Jefferson County, Missouri is not-so-affectionately called “Metherson” County for obvious (and unfortunate) reasons. For a decade and some change, the wooded hills and valleys have been the perfect ‘cover’ for a dark and insidious side of life here: a drug problem so pervasive due to an abundance of meth labs, lending the name Metherson to this rural area.
Jefferson County is located within Hillsboro and lies just south of St. Louis. Cpl. Timothy Whitney of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, who manages a county drug task force, says that methamphetamine has had a tight grasp on the county for more than a dozen years. It’s also led the state in the amount of lab seizures, due in part to aggressive enforcement as well as having an understanding of just how wide the scope of its problem is.
Jefferson Co Takes a Proactive Approach
“We have no bigger problem than most of the counties in Missouri,” Whitney says, but its team approach leads to more busts. In 2010, there were 6,915 seizures of meth labs, equipment and dumpsites nationwide; Missouri led all states with 1,744. In the first half of 2011, there were 234 seizures in Jefferson County, alone. Also in this brief span, there were 75 drug-related misdemeanor arrests and 340 felony arrests, many of which were tips from anonymous sources.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull echoes this sentiment: “We’ve been at the forefront of the battle against meth since that time,” Hull told America Tonight, adding, “Some people feel Missouri might have a very bad meth problem, but we look at it as us being very aggressive in looking for and seizing these labs.”
From 2008 to 2012, there were 1,257 meth-related arrests made in Jefferson County, Mo., according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Jefferson County currently leads all Missouri counties in meth-related arrests. According to the FDA, last year, there were 346 meth-related arrests in Jefferson County which were estimated to be more than the total meth-related arrests of 41 states put together.
Another proactive approach employed in the county of Jefferson to put an end to over-the-counter sales of cold and allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine, which is a main ingredient in meth, also called crystal meth. In fact, Jefferson County was the first in Missouri to do so but, neighboring St. Louis County has no restrictions. And state law allows people to buy up to 9 grams of pseudoephedrine every 30 days.
Meth: How the Underground Business Works
Meth first arrived in Jefferson County around 1998 from out west and, due to its highly addictive nature; people got hooked and then started cooking it themselves. Whitney described the landscape of meth manufacturing in Jefferson, saying it’s difficult to find meth labs because instead of big-scale manufacturers, there are hundreds of individual “mom and pop” cooks.
There’s also a broad network of people involved in manufacturing crystal meth; people who buy the meds containing pseudoephedrine and then sell it to the cooks, which is known as ‘smurfing.’ Many of those involved in smurfing are young heroin users who can make quite a profit which they then can use to buy heroin. For example, a box of Sudafed® that generally costs $8 or $9 can be sold to meth cooks for $100 – enough for 10 doses of heroin.
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