Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Police finding more evidence of meth, much of it from Mexican cartels, in Lawrence

April 2, 2013


While clandestine methamphetamine labs sprouted like mushrooms across much of the state and the Midwest several years ago, Lawrence was largely spared.

But times are changing, local police say.

Investigators in Lawrence say they have found ominous signs that new forms of meth, including powerful drug crystals imported from “superlabs” in Mexico and new, do-it-yourself “one-pot” recipes that have already spread like wildfire in counties to the south, are starting to show up in Lawrence.

One thing hasn’t changed about meth, they say: There is no easy way to stop it.

Tell-tale signs

Just recently, discarded 2-liter soda bottles and chemical packages — which often look like simple trash — left behind by “one-pot” meth cooks have been found in Lawrence. Police are seizing more factory-produced meth, or “ice,” during arrests, and are noting a widespread increase in the kind of burglaries and identity theft committed by people in the grip of a daily addiction.

A typical sample of a "one pot" or "shake and bake" methamphetamine cook found by police. The do-it-yourself method can quickly cook enough meth for one person, but is also a fire hazard, said Lawrence police officer Shannon Riggs.

A typical sample of a "one pot" or "shake and bake" methamphetamine cook found by police. The do-it-yourself method can quickly cook enough meth for one person, but is also a fire hazard, said Lawrence police officer Shannon Riggs.

More and more often, criminal suspects associated with these crimes admit they are using meth, or carry marks on their arms from injecting the drug, said Shannon Riggs, an officer with the Lawrence Police Department’s drug enforcement unit.

“Even in the last six months, it’s changed,” Riggs said. “Just the amount of hypodermic needles that I’ve taken off of people — a couple of them a week.”


Federal officials and law enforcement to the south have already warned that a storm of cheap meth is on the way.

Most meth labs in Kansas were put out of business after new laws passed in 2005 and 2009 made it harder to buy bulk quantities of key ingredients like pseudoephedrine, according to data collected by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. But in 2011, after declining for years, seizures of meth-cooking equipment in Kansas saw a large increase, from 143 to 214. Sheriff’s offices in southeastern Kansas complained of an epidemic of “one-pot” meth cooks spreading all the familiar ills of drug addiction again.

Recipes for “one-pot” meth, easily available online, typically involve mixing reactive metals and acids inside a cheap container such as a 2-liter soda bottle. The ingredients can be bought at any Walmart for $30. But it is a volatile mix. Bits of metal are superheated in contact with water and can burn a hole in the bottle, often creating an accidental flamethrower.

The worst of it has been seen in counties bordering Oklahoma and Missouri, including Cherokee, Montgomery, Labette and Crawford counties. Those four counties were responsible for 62 of the state’s meth lab incidents last year, including lab, dump site and other material seizures. Last year, Christopher Williams, a drug detective with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, predicted the problem would soon spread north.

“If the people of Douglas County don’t think that this is coming, they’re wrong,” he said.

Trade routes

Now, police in Lawrence have found discarded “one-pot” equipment in Lawrence. The number of such finds across the state has fallen back to pre-2011 levels, but police say that may be part of a larger problem.

Speaking frankly, drug investigators say the quality of the “one-pot” meth doesn’t compare to the professionally manufactured “ice” now being brought to Lawrence courtesy of Mexican drug cartels. And Lawrence sits on a major crossroad for drug trafficking in the United States because interstates 70 and 35 are major regional pipelines for all kinds of contraband, including meth.

Mexican traffickers smuggle methamphetamine through South Texas border entries on routes that lead directly to northeastern Kansas and Kansas City. The drugs are increasingly found in Lawrence, police say.

Mexican traffickers smuggle methamphetamine through South Texas border entries on routes that lead directly to northeastern Kansas and Kansas City. The drugs are increasingly found in Lawrence, police say.

Police investigating drugs in Lawrence say a dealer coming to town with a half-pound of meth — worth about $20,000 on the street — is often only one or two steps removed from the cartel. If Lawrence is seeing a new wave of Mexican meth, it would be typical of what has happened elsewhere in the country, said David Mizell, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Kansas City.

Although the number of meth users nationally dropped from 731,000 in 2006 to about 353,000 in 2010, increased trafficking by drug cartels is threatening to reverse that trend. As meth became more costly to produce in the U.S., Mexican-organized crime groups increased their production and began using already-established distribution networks to take over the business.

“Our biggest threat that we see is from the Mexican methamphetamine,” Mizell said. “For several years, it’s been increasing. It’s more pure, better quality, and if that is more available and more cheap to use, then you’ll see a rise in use.”

‘It’s nonstop’

As police in Lawrence note that rise in use, they point to the high cost of the addiction for users and society. Federal reports say the price of a gram of meth has been dropping over the past two years as larger and larger quantities are smuggled into the country, but it still costs anywhere from $80 to $100 per gram in Lawrence. To keep up a daily habit — which often goes around the clock — people will turn to crime.

Police aren’t always able to prove the connection but it often is clear enough to the officers, and numbers tell part of the story, said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman.

A typical sample of "ice," methamphetamine that has been processed for increased purity. Lawrence police officer Shannon Riggs said he is seeing it more often in Lawrence.

A typical sample of "ice," methamphetamine that has been processed for increased purity. Lawrence police officer Shannon Riggs said he is seeing it more often in Lawrence.

In the past year, burglaries, counterfeiting and forgery crimes have jumped in Lawrence. Burglaries rose from 533 in 2011 to 636 in 2012, partly driven by a rash of home burglaries last summer. Forgeries of checks, counterfeit bills and identity thefts, classed together by the police department’s crime analysts, have more than doubled from 137 in 2010 to 281 last year. At the same time, other crimes, such as auto burglaries and shoplifting, have held roughly steady.

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Lawrence police officer Shannon Riggs, investigating drugs in Lawrence, said he has arrested some people repeatedly, for numerous crimes, who are obviously using meth and admit it. The Mexican “ice” being sold in Lawrence is different animal from what’s been here before, and the effect on users is distinctive, he said.

“Once they start going on ice, after they’ve been using crappy dope for a while, the addiction just takes off,” Riggs said. After days and days of use, paranoia and psychosis set in. People will do things they ordinarily wouldn’t.

“They go through people’s trash, find a check book, and they just go out forging. These people are responsible for 30 cases in the past month,” he said. “It’s nonstop.”

Watching and waiting

So far, staff at local drug rehabilitation centers say they haven’t seen a big increase in new arrivals addicted to meth, but there are indications that could change.

Jen Jordan, DCCCA’s director of the regional prevention center, usually gives education presentations on the dangers of alcohol and other drugs, but says she’s now been asked to talk about meth again, to a group of Native American students who have been increasingly coming into contact with the drug when it is smuggled across the border from Mexico and into Native American reservations.

“We haven’t had a lot of requests for that, except recently,” Jordan said. “I’m hoping it’s kind of died down.”

Riggs said he hopes so, too, but the evidence suggests things will get worse here before they get better. The destruction caused by meth is something he’s seen before, having come to Lawrence in 2002 from Cherokee County in southeastern Kansas, one of the areas hit the hardest by the meth epidemic. His specialty there was investigating and clearing out meth labs, often homes that had become uninhabitable, and fire hazards, from toxic chemicals.

“There would be kids in these places. I saw it a lot,” he said. “I’m just kind of laying back and waiting, when and if it comes,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t, but I think it will.”


weatherguy48 5 years, 1 month ago

What did you, personally, find intriguing about this article?

Mike Edson 5 years, 1 month ago

Explains some of the crazy drivers I have almost been hit by when they run stop signs.

jack22 5 years, 1 month ago

Cell phones can be just as addictive and dangerous as crack and meth!

Matt Bowers 5 years, 1 month ago

Edson, I disagree. Just because you have something to pin your fears on, doesn't make it true. What did you blame poor driving on twenty years ago, was it cocaine? These addicts go through the trash and steal peoples identity through discarded checks. “They go through people’s trash, find a check book, and they just go out forging. These people are responsible for 30 cases in the past month,” he said. “It’s nonstop.” (LJW) Does that sound like the behavior of someone with gas money?

You actually thought they were running stop signs because of meth, did they have a missouri plate? It didn't cross your mind that it might be cell phones? WOW! I've read your blogs a ton of times, you are smarter that this.

Wayne James 5 years, 1 month ago

What do the Stste of Missouri and cell phones have to do with anything? How many students are there at KU? How many non student residents of Lawrence & Kansas have (at ;east ONE cellphone? How many of thes residents were fool enough to think they nee/need the latest in technology and ran out and bout a new "Smart Phone' everytime a new model came on the market? The smart ones are the companies making these mini computers to sell to you. Me, I still have the old fashioned cell phone. You remember? The type you actually have to type in the number you are calling and axtually have to TALK to the called party rather than sending a "text message". GOOD GRIEF! To what is the world coming? Laziness & more laziness.

Wayne James 5 years, 1 month ago

Illegal drugs on the streets of Lawrence? Goodness me! Sakes Alive! Say it isn't so! All of those pretty little students at KU surely woldn't use/do such things. Why I am just appaled. Simply Appaled! What happened to the "Old West Lawrence" neighborhood(s) where I grew up? One home I loved & lived in, is now a shambles. I assume that it was turned over to students as rental property. Students do not care. It's not theirs, why take care of it? After all. Between books, tuition & most importantly BEER (& other needless alcholic beverages), they don't have time to take care of something. Throw beer bottles at everything that doesn't move and if it moves, shoot it. HAPPINESS IS SEEING LAWRENCE, KANSAS IN YOUR REARVIEW MIRROR, it's even better knowing there is nothing leeft in that burg for me to want to return. My parents have passed, & my only sibling thinks she is too good for me,

jhawkinsf 5 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like your sister is a wise woman.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 1 month ago

Well that post was interesting. (backing away slowly)

jonas_opines 5 years, 1 month ago

Wayward Soul says: "Gettofffa mai lawn!1!!"

msezdsit 5 years, 1 month ago

Wow, sure glad I don't live in the lawrence you live in.

William McCauley 5 years, 1 month ago

This is one of the stories they run to get you all worked up in fear so when in the next few months when the cops go to the city to request 40 million for a new cop shop all the sheep will be happy to vote in all that money.

Ian_Cummings 5 years, 1 month ago

That's true. I went back and used the phrase "large increase" instead. Thanks. Ian Cummings, LJW.

Steve Stucky 5 years, 1 month ago

Drugs in Lawrence? Really? In Lawrence? How can this be?????

Liberty275 5 years, 1 month ago

Legalize it and sell it with approval from a person's doctor.

Prohibition was stupid, prohibition is stupid.

jw721 5 years, 1 month ago

Because that system works so well for prescription drugs? :P

foxli 5 years, 1 month ago

I can understand legalization of marijuana, but legalizing meth? Really? What medical purpose would it serve? What reputable doctor would prescribe it? And what meth head would just say, "Well, no meth for me" if they don't get a prescription?

If we're going the legalization route, let's go all the way, and let junkies destroy themselves indiscriminately. Just keep your fingers crossed that they don't take anyone else down with them.

Liberty275 5 years, 1 month ago

"What medical purpose would it serve?"

None that I know of.

"And what meth head would just say, "Well, no meth for me" if they don't get a prescription?"

When you put the trailer park cooks out of business because meth is 1/10th the price at walmart, and walmart won't sell it without a "prescription", where else is it going to come from? As it is, they make it 8 doors down from your house and anyone can get it. What they get is so full of impurities it has a better chance of killing them and will rot their face off.

Either way, they are going to get it. Do you want them getting something made by chemists in secure facilities or joe-bob next door in the kitchen where his baby-momma makes food?.

All drugs should be legalized and their consumption should be overseen by a doctor. Or we can all just hide from the problem and let people continue to die.

Crazy_Larry 5 years, 1 month ago

We let junk-food junkies destroy themselves indiscriminately...same with cigarette smokers and boozers. Why should we treat one different than the other??? The very first prohibition was GOD forbidding the tree of knowledge...GOD had two people to watch. Legalize and regulate. Prohibition is, and forever always will be, a failure.

Heather Perry 5 years, 1 month ago

done hat do you think adderol and ritalin are?

Heather Perry 5 years, 1 month ago

what do you think adderol and ritalin are?

bad_dog 5 years, 1 month ago

Yes, and if the physician won't prescribe it, that will just put an end to it right there. Surely the addict wouldn't seek to obtain/manufacture it illegally would he/she?

Liberty275 5 years, 1 month ago

"Surely the addict wouldn't seek to obtain/manufacture it illegally would he/she?"

Obtain it from who? Walmart can put the cooks and dealers out of business. The mexican drug trade/war will be driven out of business.

Go see if you can buy some bootleg beer and let us know how that works out.

As for DIY cooking, where will the pseudo-ephedrine come from?

friendlyjhawk 5 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence has everything a city could want, especially an underbelly of sex, drugs and rock and rock. Thanks for this informative article. Just another reason Lawrence is the home of the brave and rich.

kernal 5 years, 1 month ago

Where there are few jobs and little hope, you'll find an increase in drug use and traffic. Meth took off in SE Kansas when jobs became few and far between; now that is spreading across the rest of Kansas.

As long as we have the dunderheads in the Kansas Legislature, it will only get worse.

Michael LoBurgio 5 years, 1 month ago

it's a lot cheaper going to your dr and get some adderall it's pure amphetamine but for a much lower cost!

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

Why can you classify liberals as highly educated and conversely imply conservatives be uneducated? I have received an engineering and economics degree. I'm on track to gain a graduate degree in engineering and professional licensure. As you can see, I got both a liberal arts and a real degree, yet, I am a conservative.

On a non related note, interesting article.

jonas_opines 5 years, 1 month ago

"We're not interested in what's best for a whole, only for an individual."

Hmmm . . . isn't putting the collective ahead of the individual supposed to be a trademark liberal/commie/marxist thing? Ya'know, in contrast to the Rugged Individualism of the Conservatives?

I mean, you'd almost be led to the belief that these liberal/conservative labels don't actually Mean anything at all, or maybe had just become a catch-all phrase for "all the people that I disagree with".

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 1 month ago

havecents, there is a certain irony in writing "I don't care about labels" and then peppering your post with, well, labels: liberals, freeloaders, illegals, etc.

tomatogrower 5 years, 1 month ago

Doing drugs, especially from Mexico is cannibalism. Any of you who do drugs, just think of all the human blood spilled to bring you your stupid high. You are doing human blood when you do drugs.

Truthspeaker 5 years, 1 month ago that supposed to make it better or worse...?

Centerville 5 years, 1 month ago

This would help explain the uptick in car and home break-ins. Doesn't take much money to buy enought meth to get you brave enough to break into another house (or rob someone on the street).

RDE87 5 years, 1 month ago

I hate to break it to you but 214 is not 143 doubled.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 1 month ago

Irtnog2001- see that's how ugly rumors gets started. Please link to your source.

bad_dog 5 years, 1 month ago

I thought it was Aryan Brotherhood prison gangs. My bad.

Armstrong 5 years, 1 month ago

Hey gotta keep those boarders open otherwise we are a racist nation.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 1 month ago

Riigghhttt, Armstrong -Keeping those boarders(sic) open is the cause of meth abuse in the US. Or did I misunderstand the point of your comment? Were you referencing skate-boarders, boogie-boarders, surf-boarders, or folks who rent a room from another?

windjammer 5 years, 1 month ago

Meth and sex was the downfall of the Franklin county sheriff.

Hudson Luce 5 years, 1 month ago

Make it legal and cheap - should cost no more than a dollar per dose of pure meth - and let people destroy their lives with it. It's their choice. Trying to prevent them from doing it isn't working, it just increases the price and thus the crime rate, and once addicted to the stuff, people will do it until it kills them. Trying to fight this will cost far more than it's possibly worth. The same goes for marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and the rest of the pharmacopeia. Make it legal, and for the drugs supplied by the cartels, undercut them on price and put them out of business. For drugs whose use is self-limiting, i.e. both highly addictive and quickly lethal, do not test for in order to receive welfare benefits...

Liberty275 5 years, 1 month ago

You should think about the word "consent" next time you equate drugs with other crimes. You are comparing apples and oranges.

Sure, meth is bad, but so is abortion.

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