Niles man flees from, assaults Niles City Police officer after traffic stop

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
DOWAGIAC -- Methamphetamine is responsible for "a majority of our crime," Rich Hiscock of the Sheriff's Office reported to Dowagiac Rotary Club Thursday.
Hiscock called meth's prevalence in Cass and Van Buren counties "a real epidemic."
Scott Banninga of Dowagiac Housing Commission, who was welcomed into Rotary membership earlier in the weekly luncheon meeting at Elks Lodge 889 along with Cathy Merrill of Dowagiac Area Federal Credit Union, said, "This is like the rural area's version of crack."
Anhydrous ammonia is readily available to steal from farms which keep the ammonia without water as a fertilizer.
Cass County had two arrests and two labs in 2000, 11 arrests and 14 investigations in 2001, seven arrests and 22 investigations in 2002 and 12 arrests and nine investigations in 2003.
Hiscock said the disparity between the two figures in 2002 can be attributed to a number of clan labs found as "dump sites."
Each pound of meth made produces six pounds of waste. Each cleanup costs at least $1,500 for a hazardous materials crew. Meth labs have been found in all but three of Cass County's 15 townships. Michigan uncovered 18 labs in 1999, 40 in 2000, 118 in 2001 and 206 in 2002. "It's exploded and it just keeps going up," Hiscock said.
With methamphetamine labs concealed in suitcases carried into motels or in car trunks driving through the community, household chemical products that are combined are potentially lethal and toxic time bombs.
When they cook in motel rooms, chemical byproducts are disposed down drains. If you drop your tooth brush in a motel room, throw it away and buy a new one. Also be wary of coffee pots.
When mixed in apartment buildings, garages, barns, camper trailers with plastic tubes discreetly sticking out windows to vent vapors, storage facilities, cars and remote fields, meth can damage the central nervous system, liver and kidneys and burn or irritate skin, eyes, nose and throat.
Investigators don't encounter meth labs so much in houses or in town. Dowagiac hasn't had much of a problem because nearby neighbors are likely to recognize chemical odors. Law enforcement has enlisted stores for surveillance of sales of lithium batteries and nasal decongestants.
Untrained clandestine meth lab operators rely on reckless practices, dumping toxic chemicals which must be cleaned up with haz-mat suits in lakes and along roadsides.
Chemicals and fumes that permeate walls, carpets, plaster and wood in meth labs, as well as the surrounding soil, are known to cause cancer and permanent brain damage and immune and respiratory system problems.
Despite its tag of "poor-man's cocaine," meth sells for the same price on the street in this area -- $100 a gram for an amount the size of a sugar packet.
Meth labs are "highly flammable and explosive," Hiscock said. "In St. Joseph County, somebody blew their house up. Last year we had an explosion from one at Sister Lakes. They might not be in the houses, but they drive down the same roads you and your family are sharing. We had one guy in Van Buren County who lived on a lake who was dumping it in the lake."
Meth can be eaten, smoked, snorted or injected. Smoking is one of the most common ways to get it into your system for a quick rush. Low-intensity abusers can include truckers, piece-rate factory workers, housewives to lose weight, students and exotic dancers who want a caffeine-like stimulant boost. Bingers typically smoke or inject meth for a rush and use more to continue the high, although the euphoria diminishes each time until no amount will bring the desired high. Binges can last three to five days. High-intensity abusers, known as "speed freaks" and "tweakers" are dangerous in trying to elude crashing. They can sleep three days and returning to "normal" never quite reaches the state before meth use. Normal can last two to 14 days. After 30 to 90 days in withdrawal, they lose the ability to experience pleasure and become depressed and lethargic over a craving that can lead to suicide or use marijuana and alcohol to make these feelings go away. Two years of treatment is recommended instead of the former 90 days.
Meth can be placed on aluminum foil and heated with a lighter, inhaling the vapor. Glass cigar tubes can also be heated.
Unlike cocaine, which is derived from plants, meth is man-made. The initial rush is more intense at five to 30 minutes, compared to two to five minutes for cocaine. Meth highs last from four to 24 hours, compared to 20 to 30 minutes for cocaine. Meth users may exhibit aggressive and psychotic behavior, irritability, anxiety, paranoia and auditory hallucinations.
During World War II it was given to soldiers to keep them alert.
Mexican national labs are industrial-sized and can turn out 100 pounds at a time. They're mostly found in California.
Physical effects on users include sweating and weight loss from malnutrition.
Their central nervous system is so stimulated, they feel like they have bugs crawling on them. They can have seizures. Their world moves at 100 mph compared to ours."
Hiscock, a 12-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office now assigned to the detective division, and Deputy Phil Small, garbed in a flame-retardant suit, are the only officers in the county grant-trained at the FBI academy in Quantico, Va., in how to take apart clandestine labs.
Slang street terms for the drug also include speed, crank, crystal, Christi, honey, dreams, clouds and peanut butter, which resembles the soft spread before it dries. It can be powder or liquid. Finished product can be white to pink or yellow, but "you can't go by colors anymore. There are some 'cooks' that produce meth who are dying it with food coloring -- blue, green. They look at it like an artist signing a painting. Their signature is the color of the meth. It can be oily, tacky or have a texture to it," Hiscock said.
Clandestine meth labs have been intercepted in at least two vehicles driving through Dowagiac.

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