By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service
LANSING — The recent bust of a mobile meth lab in Big Rapids illustrates the growing popularity of small-scale cooking operations employed by many drug users, and a growing problem for Northern Michigan, a police official said.
The bust occurred Nov. 9 and saw 30-year-old Mark Peterson of Big Rapids led away in handcuffs after officers stopped his car in a remote part of the Ferris State University campus, said Bruce Borkovich, the director of public safety at the university.
Following the vehicle stop, officers determined that Peterson had been using the car as a “one-pot” meth lab, a cooking operation in which small batches of the drug are produced, Borkovich said.
Peterson was living with a Ferris State student in a campus apartment at the time, Borkovich said, and there was no evidence that he’d been distributing the drug.
Borkovich, who spent nearly six years on the Bay Area Narcotics Team before assuming his position at the university two years ago, said around 2006 he saw a decline in elaborate, larger cooking operations and the rise of smaller, cook-and-ditch, one-pot methods.
“Almost exclusively, the production method is called a one-pot,” Borkovich said. “The meth is actually produced in anything as small as a water bottle all the way up to a two-liter pop bottle.
“The evolution to the one-pot lab has made it much more difficult for law enforcement to find and detect these labs.”
A one-pot lab in Grawn, Grand Traverse County, that was recently raided yielded more than 2,700 pounds of waste byproduct, the largest Detective Lt. Daniel King of the State Police has ever seen in his time as commander of the Traverse Narcotics Team.
Investigators surmised that the man cooked meth in his trailer, put the waste in garbage bags and then ditched the bags into a nearby pole barn, King said.
In the eight-county area of Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Antrim, Kalkaska, Wexford, Benzie, Osceola and Missaukee that the narcotics team covers, cases of meth labs and waste finds have nearly doubled from 2012 to 2014, and it’s only gotten worse from there, King said.
In 2012, the narcotics team found 36 meth labs and dump sites. The team is on target for 60 to 80 finds this year, with Wexford and Grand Traverse counties as the hubs of meth activity, he said.
In the last two years the one-pot method has assumed a nearly exclusive role as the way to make meth in the area, King added.
“It’s simpler,” he said. “It’s easier. It puts all the stuff into one container.”
While the greater ease of cooking has contributed to an increase in meth users, it doesn’t account for the increase as a whole, he said.
King, whose team also faces a growing heroin problem, said stemming the tide will require a multi-faceted approach, including rehab for addicts.
“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” he said.
By MICHAEL KRANSZ