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Residents learning to sniff out meth, labs
Neighbors enlist in drug war to keep Layton safe

LAYTON -- If your neighbor's house smells anything like a mixture of cat urine and almonds, chances are you've got a methamphetamine lab next door.

That's the best way John Holden, a detective with the Davis County narcotics strike force, can describe the smell of methamphetamine.Deena Warren, 31, said if her neighbors would have been operating a methamphetamine lab, she might have innocently asked them for a sample of what they were making just to be neighborly.

"I wouldn't have the first clue if they had a meth lab," Warren said, "I'd think they were making jam."

David Elgaaen, a five-year Layton resident, saw the effects of methamphetamine use as a therapist in a hospital that treats psychologically ill patients in Blackfoot, Idaho. As a foster parent, he is concerned about drug labs in his neighborhood.

"I'm not aware of it," Elgaaen said, "but if it is (going on) I wouldn't be surprised."

About 50 concerned Layton residents met Thursday to get the lowdown on methamphetamine labs -- from how to spot them (or sniff them out) to how to identify those who use the drug to how to help police crack down on the illegal operations.

The meeting was sponsored by the Layton Community Action Council in conjunction with the Layton Police Department. Police officers educated the safe neighborhoods committees of Sun Hills, North Hills and East Ridge in Layton about one of Utah's crime problems.

"Utah is one of the leaders in the nation for meth," police Sgt. Bradley King said.

Holden said Davis County narcotics agents have busted six methamphetamine labs this year. The labs are much more prevalent in the Salt Lake and Ogden areas than Davis County, he said.

Methamphetamine labs put Utahns at risk of fire, chemical contamination and explosions, Holden said.

Methamphetamines come in two forms -- crank and crystal, known on the street as "cr" and "ice" respectively.

Crank can be purple, pink, brown or tan depending on the chemicals used and how well it is washed, Holden said.

Crystal is transparent and looks "like little chunks of ice," Holden said.

Methamphetamine is snorted or smoked through a glass pipe.

The newest, and possibly most potent, way to get high from methamphetamines is called "hot rail." The user turns a glass tube into a funnel, melts the drug and inhales the vapor. The drug "goes straight to the brain," Holden said.

Anyone who wants to put in the work can manufacture methamphetamine. Among other things, meth lab operators use cold medications and matchboxes in manufacturing the drug.

If you can't seem to make the people next door come out of their house so you can tell them they're stinking up the neighborhood, that's further evidence they're running a methamphetamine lab.

The telltale signs of a user are paranoia, drastic weight loss, premature aging and little red sores called "crank bugs" covering the body, Holden said.

After the meeting, Warren said now she'll never mistake a methamphetamine lab for a home of fruit preserves. "They gave me a lot of concrete examples," she said. And if she spots one she will definitely report it to authorities, Warren said.

If you notice anything that looks (or smells) like a methamphetamine lab, you can call your local police department or narcotics strike force.