By Jessica Farrish
West Virginia State Police uncovered nine active methamphetamine laboratories and three “meth dumps” in southern West Virginia in the past month and arrested 32 people on related charges, officials announced Friday.
First Sgt. Michael Baylous of the Charleston detachment said the raids were part of a State Police effort that began Oct. 26 to discover how pervasive the methamphetamine problem is in the southern part of the state.
“We wanted to know how bad the problem was outside of the Kanawha Valley,” said Baylous. “What we found was there were quite a few in the month period of time. It’s more widespread than we thought.”
Baylous said more methamphetamine labs are mobile labs that suspects can take from location to location, also called “one pot” or “shake and bake” labs.
One of the by-products of a “one pot” lab is a “meth dump,” or a remnant of the lab that is left in the woods, in a home or at other locations, said Baylous.
Since Oct. 26, one “meth dump” has been found in Raleigh, one in Fayette and one in Greenbrier County, according to Baylous.
Methamphetamine doesn’t just hurt addicts, Baylous said.
“Contamination comes from the meth labs and the people around them that take the chemicals out into the general public,” said Baylous. “Sometimes their kids are exposed to it, they take it to school, and other kids are exposed to it.
“It’s unbelievable how toxic these chemicals are,” he said, adding that explosions are also a possibility when meth is being made.
Baylous said troopers are focusing more efforts on educating the public about safety issues related to methamphetamine.
He said that abuse of the drug is not just a law enforcement problem, but a moral and social problem as well.
Although State Police don’t yet have the manpower to form a meth task force, troopers are treating the problem seriously and dedicating as much time and effort to cracking down on illegal meth operations as possible.
Community members can help by reporting suspected meth labs to police.
The recent arrests were made from community reports, reports by drug informants and “good, old-fashioned police work,” Baylous said.
He said Trooper 1st Class L.W. Price spearheaded the recent investigative focus on meth labs in the area.
The following felony arrests for operating a mobile methamphetamine lab were made in local counties:
Raleigh County: Ronald Roberts, 3 counts
Fayette County: Earnest Sorrells, 3 counts; Melinda Gwinn, 3 counts; Ralph Bland, 3 counts; Abraham Ennis, 3 counts; Angelique Ramsey, 2 counts; Ryan Dodd, 3 counts; Emily Murray, 2 counts; Daniel Price, 3 counts; Matthew D. Fox, 2 counts; Jerry M. Moul, 2 counts, Gerald W. Hunter, 2 counts
Summers County: James P. Hunt, 3 counts; Codi S. Bowles, 2 counts; Roger W. Reed, 3 counts; Kandi A. George, 3 counts
Greenbrier County: Matthew Falls, 3 counts
Additional arrests were made in Webster, Pendleton, Randolph and Braxton counties.
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