On lookout for meth
Training part of ongoing initiative of Monadnock Region Law Enforcement
During a two-day training session at the Antrim Town Hall, Jake Kelton shows the participating officers how meth cooks mix chemicals together to make meth. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Part of a mock meth lab used in the two-day training session at the Antrim Town Hall, Oct. 1 and 2. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Household items, including a lightbulb that was made into a meth pipe, used during Jake Kelton's Merit Training Program's training session about recognizing and disposing meth labs. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Merit Training Program, LLC., founder Jake Kelton, teaches the training participants from the Peterborough, Antrim, Greenfield, New Ipswich and Hinsdale Police Departments about the different types of meth labs, at the Antrim Town Hall, Oct. 1 and 2. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
On the first day of a two-day training session, Jake Kelton of the Merit Training Program, LLC., shows the participants a video of a pickup truck exploding in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Jake Kelton of the Merit Training Program, LLC., back left, explains to officers how volatile the chemicals in cooking meth during the two-day training session at the Antrim Town Hall. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Police officials are clear: There are no meth-related investigations currently open in the eastern portion of the Monadnock region. But they say they’ve heard rumors that the powerful drug and the extremely explosive labs used to create it may be finding their way into the region.
“It’s just word of mouth that meth labs could be in the area,” said Capt. Ernest Belletete of the Peterborough Police Department.
According to the James Vara, assistant attorney general at the N.H. Office of the Attorney General, meth lab prosecutions are ongoing throughout the state. “I cannot discuss the scope of current investigations, but there are prosecutions across the state regarding methamphetamine, probably in every county,” he said. “It’s a national problem. It’s a bad thing to happen to a state. It scars the location of where it was.”
To get ahead of a potential crisis, several area towns are banding together to better understand the drug, to recognize the signs of a meth lab, and to safely dispose of the chemicals. Earlier this month, Peterborough, Hinsdale, Greenfield, New Ipswich and Antrim Police departments participated in a two-day training held at the Antrim Town Hall that ended with a written and practical test.
The challenge, say some of the officers who attended the session, is being able to quickly identify hidden and portable labs.
“Someone could have it in a backpack,” said Peterborough Police Sgt. Rick Nelson, who helped coordinate the training. “Someone could make a batch in a hotel, then move on, and we’re left to clean up the mess.”
The training was led by Jake Kelton of Pennsylvania, a former state police officer with a degree in chemistry, who now runs his own business called the MERIT Training Program, LLC.
Nelson said of the training, “It was really incredible. I was floored by how much you can miss [at an investigation site]. So many household items are used.”
After the training, officers said they were able to determine if an investigation site was a meth lab, and if it was, they could tell what type of technique was used to cook the meth.
“It’s a growing problem in the state,” said Greenfield Police Col. Glenn Robarge, who emphasized how frequently meth labs are found in vehicles. “They could be in a car driving down the road, a 2 liter soda bottle could actually be a meth lab.”
Robarge said the training taught him everything from how it’s made, to how to detect items used to make it and how to craft search warrants looking for meth labs. “Empty matchbox strikers will be everywhere, and cans of ether,” Robarge said of a typical meth lab. “It’s inexpensive to make, it’s extremely addictive and flammable, and it’s dangerous for everyone.”
The scope of the cooperation between departments that participated in the training extends beyond on-site meth investigations, and includes elements such as cybercrime. The growing collaboration is called the Monadnock Region Law Enforcement Program, and so far Nelson said Peterborough, Greenfield, Antrim and New Ipswich are on board. “It’s multi-jurisdictional, and we’re baby-stepping at this point,” he said. “I went to people I’ve worked with on similar cases [to start], but I would love to get other departments involved. It may take a while to get established.”
Nelson said the reason for having a separate program is because these types of crimes take a lot of time to investigate and require specialized training and equipment.
Since 2012 when Nelson initiated the program, he has reached out to a number of charities to help purchase training and equipment. For the recent meth training, The Walsh Family Foundation and New Hampshire Ball Bearing donated enough money for several departments to participate. During the last year, Nelson, along with Greenfield and Antrim police officers, attended a training session about cell phone interrogation at the National White Collar Crime Center in Rhode Island. Nelson said he has also received grant money over the last year, which allowed the program to buy numerous cell phones, three laptops and forensic computer programs and equipment to work with local agencies and the N.H. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
“Peterborough Police Department, Antrim Police Department and Greenfield Police Department will each be receiving a laptop for cybercrime investigations,” Nelson said. “I’m slowly working on getting Greenfield and Antrim Police departments to become members of the N.H. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and getting officers trained in cell phone [cybercrime] investigations.”
Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org.