The number of meth manufacturing cases in Kansas rose 43 percent last year, but the jump hasn’t alarmed state law enforcement officials.
Deputy KBI Director Kyle Smith said a part of the increase — from 143 incidents in 2010 to 204 in 2011 — was the result of a change in the way reports are counted. The 17 incidents reported after Jan. 31, 2011, would have gone into the 2012 total under the old system of reporting, he said.
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And while the raw numbers are still up, he said, the operations that were uncovered by law enforcement officers last year were generally smaller than the ones that were commonly found in previous years. He said a review of the 2011 cases found that more than 40 percent were “one-pot” operations that involved much smaller amounts of meth than are found in traditional meth-making operations.
“Are there more meth labs? Yes,” Smith said. “But it’s probably not as dramatic as it sounds.”
Smith said that in recent years the number of meth labs recovered in Kansas hasn’t come close to the 600 to 800 that were being found every year in the early 2000s. He said the passage of a 2005 law that restricts the sale of pseudoephedrine medicines — a key ingredient in the manufacture of the drug — had a major impact.
Smith estimated that 90 percent of the meth consumed in Kansas is manufactured in Mexico.
In recent years, southeast Kansas has been the most active part of the state in terms of meth production. Five southeast Kansas counties — Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Montgomery and Neosho — accounted for 72 percent of the documented meth lab incidents reported from 2009 through 2011.
Smith said he wasn’t sure why those counties lead the state in meth production, but he said it might simply be because there are more people in that part of the state who know how to make the drug.
From 2009 through 2011, Sedgwick County reported only one incident involving meth: a dump site that was found in 2010.
The only area of south-central Kansas to show a significant increase in meth activity last year was Cowley County, where the number of meth incidents jumped from nine in 2010 to 16 last year. Cowley County Sheriff Don Read said the bulk of the cases his deputies are seeing involve the one-pot manufacturing process.
Read also said that meth activity in his county was nowhere near the level it was before the 2005 law took effect.
“We’re not seeing anything like the numbers we saw from 2000 to 2005,” he said.