MSP: Fewer meth labs in SW MI, but new problem emerging

Three Rivers mobile meth lab downtown
First responders work to safely dismantle a meth lab found in a van in downtown Three Rivers. (Three Rivers Police Department)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Before opioids and heroin, it was methamphetamine Michigan State Police primarily had to contend with.

“Methamphetamine has been a problem in southwest Michigan since the 1990s,” said MSP Lt. Richard Pazder, who works in Battle Creek.

Pazder says there’s good news and bad news when it comes to meth.

The good news: The number of meth labs seized in Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties has dropped from 407 in 2015 to 240 in 2016. So far this year, the number of seized labs is 105.

“The one-pot labs that we’re seeing go down, that’s a good thing for our environment (and) it’s a good thing for law enforcement because a one-pot meth lab is basically a pressurized 20 ounce pop bottle, if you will,” Pazder explained.

Then there’s the bad news. Pazder says his department is seeing an uptick in crystal methamphetamine.

“Because it’s cheaper, because it’s readily available, more and more people are turning to crystal methamphetamine rather than producing methamphetamine out of a pop bottle,” he said.

Although meth is highly addictive, Pazder says it’s not as lethal as the opioid epidemic.

“While methamphetamine is a very serious problem and will be in our community for many years to come, at least it’s not taking as many lives as what we’re seeing from the heroin epidemic,” he said.

Pazder says the drop in meth labs is not necessarily because of the growing opioid problem.

“I think it’s just a matter of a drug of choice and availability for some people,” he added.

Pazder says the rise of crystal meth means there will be a larger number of people using meth overall.

“It is good that we’re seeing that meth labs are going down,” said Pazder. “It’s good for our environment, it’s good for safety of our people. It’s just unfortunate that it’s a kind of a happy side effect of a more serious problem.”