A series of recent arrests in Niagara County has pointed to an increasing problem with methamphetamine production, which in most cases are small “one-pot meth cooks,” according to law enforcement officials.
These cases, also known as “shake-and-bakes,” involve the combining of chemicals in a sealed container – usually a soft drink bottle – for personal use and/or sale, authorities said.
Sheriff James R. Voutour said Wednesday that investigations show an increase in the manufacture and use of methamphetamine in Niagara County. He highlighted several arrests throughout the county after a recent rash of investigations tied to the drug this past week.
“It is becoming more prevalent unfortunately,” Voutour said. Niagara County has had more than its share of such cases, compared with other counties, according to the sheriff.
Voutour said crackdowns on prescription pills may be part of the reason.
“My guess is the hard work we put into pills is paying off, but this is the result of it,” Voutour said.
“It’s harder to get pills these days. We’ve done the awareness, the pill drops, the pharmacy database to see if people are shopping around.
“I think it’s much more difficult to get pills, and (drug traffickers) are turning to something else.”
Voutour said officer awareness was also leading to arrests.
“Around a year and a half ago, when this came on the radar, I had the DEA come in and train all our guys on recognition – the products, the smell, the ingredients,” Voutour said.
“And that’s paid off because in almost all of the cases it was because an alert deputy smelled remnants of a one pot meth cook and were able to secure scenes and get search warrants.”
The sheriff said investigators will continue to confront this growing problem and are asking the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activities to local law enforcement.
Voutour said meth labs often emit strange smells, particularly from camping fuel or Coleman fuel used to provide the high heat needed to make meth. Another sign of a meth lab is unusual garbage such as multiple containers of cold medicines, paint thinner and “other poisons,” as well as high traffic at a residence.
In its most serious case, the Niagara County Drug Task Force charged William K. Ray, 26, of Lockport, on Tuesday with felony second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine, both felonies. The investigation started in December after investigators found a bag containing multiple ounces of methamphetamine oil, materials, and equipment used to make methamphetamine in the Town of Hartland. Ray is being held without bail in Niagara County Jail.
Last week, the Niagara County Drug Task Force was investigating the sale of methamphetamine on Orleans Avenue in Niagara Falls and recovered a small amount of the drug and materials used to manufacture it. The case led to the arrest of Jason T. Clark, 39, of Lockport, who was wanted in two assault cases in Lockport. As officers closed in on him, police said, he ran from the scene. Brittany T. Blenker, 23, of Niagara Falls, tried to get between a detective and Clark, grabbed the detective’s gun, causing it to discharge and hit another woman, causing minor wounds, police said. She was charged with first-degree assault, and more charges are pending.
Last Friday, members of the task force were serving a parole warrant on Gabriel Drive in the City of Lockport when they encountered a strong chemical odor inside the home. A search uncovered a small quantity of methamphetamine, several depleted “one-pot meth cooks” and materials used to manufacture the drug. Naomi M. Mathews, 29, was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, and Pedro J. Vlaquez, 29, was charged on the warrant, according to authorities.
Also last Friday, sheriff’s deputies serving a warrant on Walnut Street in the City of Lockport encountered a strong chemical odor, which prompted them to obtain a search warrant. The search uncovered a small amount of methamphetamine, a depleted “one-pot meth cook” and materials used to manufacture the drug. Hypodermic needles and suspected heroin were also found at the scene, police said.
Matthew D. Bennett, 23, of the Walnut Street address, was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. This investigation is continuing.