Meth Lab Research:

About 20 percent of all meth labs are discovered due to an explosion. Besides the obvious immediate concerns associated with any structure explosion, meth labs create a special set of problems for law enforcement. Police must be aware of these concerns and have a plan in place to mitigate them.

Many different types of illegal drugs (ecstasy, PCP, LSD, among others) are manufactured in clandestine laboratories, but methamphetamine accounts for the vast majority of drugs manufactured in such labs. These labs are found in all 50 states and in all types of settings, including rural farms, suburban homes, city apartments, and even in vehicles traveling along the roadways.

Types of Labs

There are two main types of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. One is the super lab, a highly organized and very sophisticated lab that uses highly trained “cooks,” specialized assistants, and the best equipment available. The other type of clandestine meth lab is the small scale “Mom and Pop” (or “Beavis and Butthead”) lab. Such labs are generally run by the meth users and typically produce enough for personal use with a little left over to sell.

Police need to be aware of what types of labs are prevalent in their area. Smaller scale labs can be found across the country and account for about 90 percent of all labs. But the super labs produce more than 80 percent of the methamphetamine found on the street. Most super labs are concentrated in Southern California and Mexico.

Toxic Stew

The professional nature of the super labs makes them safer than the toxic smaller labs. With their haphazard production techniques, drug-addled cooks, and primitive equipment, smaller labs account for the vast majority of explosions, fires, and illegal hazardous waste disposal attributable to meth production.

The toxic nature of the smaller labs is a major concern for police. Methamphetamine laboratories produce a disproportionate amount of hazardous waste. Every pound of methamphetamine produces five to six pounds of hazardous waste. Irresponsible lab workers dispose of this waste in a number of illegal and dangerous ways, including burial or burning. Often, they will pour the toxic waste down the drain or dispose of it in household garbage, exposing sanitation workers and the community to the poison. Grounds and waters supplies may remain contaminated for years by meth waste products.

Ventilation of a clandestine meth lab is another hazard. If the lab is properly ventilated, toxic fumes are spread throughout the surrounding community. Poorly ventilated labs allow the toxic and explosive fumes to collect. These toxic fumes can be injurious to workers, innocent people in or around the lab (including children of lab workers), and responding police. The mixture of chemicals and the absence of basic lab safety precautions can cause explosions, triggered by lit cigarettes, electrical switches, or even a dynamic police entry.

Precursor Items

It is estimated that 34 different chemicals are required to make methamphetamine. Some of the most common precursor chemicals include ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous, iodine, hydrochloric acid, ether, and anhydrous ammonia. Some of these chemicals are relatively easy to obtain while others are somewhat difficult to obtain.

The United States does not manufacture ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, so much of the chemicals needed to produce meth are obtained from over-the-counter medicines. It takes thousands of over-the-counter ephedrine tablets to produce one pound of methamphetamine, so anyone buying bulk amounts of products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine should be viewed suspiciously.

Other materials needed to make methamphetamine are available from retail outlets. These seemingly innocuous items include cold and allergy medicines, lye, rock salt, battery acid, and pool acid. These items are illegally converted in a process using equipment such as glass jars, rubber tubing, coffee filters, and hot plates.

January 01, 2009  |  by Joseph Petrocelli – Also by this author



Intel Assets

The small and mobile nature of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories make it almost impossible for any department to track every lab. But with knowledge of the necessary precursor items and a well-trained community, you can focus on certain individuals who accumulate or attempt to obtain suspicious articles.

If there is no legislation in place restricting sales of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine products, you can request that pharmacists keep these medicines in locked display cases and keep records of anyone who buys an excessive amount of these products. Be aware that cold remedies are often sold in some locations, including tobacco stores, arcades, teen clothing stores, and music stores—that don’t normally cater to cold sufferers.

Pharmacists are not the only members of the community who can help you locate suspicious persons, suspicious purchases, or suspicious circumstances. Identify members of the community who may have incidental dealings with meth lab workers, including:

Postal carriers may notice large bulk deliveries of medicines to a household. These deliveries may come from source countries of meth precursor drugs (Germany is the largest producer of ephedrine; India and China are major exporters of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine; phenylpropanolamine is imported from Taiwan and Japan).

Postal workers may also notice a household that receives a lot of mail but does not appear to be “lived in.” They can note that there are no cars present; there’s a build up of circulars on the front lawn; the lawn is poorly maintained; and there are no curtains on the windows. Carriers may also see people who come outside of the structure to smoke cigarettes.

Sanitation workers may notice a large amount of garbage generated from a smaller residence or a large amount of empty over-the-counter cold remedy containers being discarded.

Utility workers may notice unusual energy demands from a structure. A seemingly vacant residence with a large, continuous demand for energy may indicate a meth lab.

Resident managers and rental property managers should be suspicious of anyone who rents a property with cash payments but cannot provide any references.

These workers have limited legal access to properties that could be used for meth labs and should be trained to identify suspicious odors associated with the clandestine production of methamphetamine, including:

  • Garlic, a possible indicator of phosphine
  • Rotten eggs, which may indicate sulfur
  • Cat urine, which may indicate ammonia
  • Nail polish remover, which may indicate acetone
  • Hospital smell, which may indicate ether

Other non-police personnel who should be trained in meth lab indicators include hotel and motel workers, health care workers, and emergency medical personnel. All of the above should be able to recognize the physical deterioration caused by methamphetamine use: rotting teeth, open sores, and a chemical odor emanating from the body.

Once a meth user or cooker is located or arrested, ask specific questions designed to measure the size of the clandestine laboratory and how much meth is produced. How often does the lab run a production cycle? Is the lab producing for personal use or for distribution? Are the drugs sold from the point of production or are they shipped to a street distribution location?

Raiding the Lab

Prior to approaching any meth lab, ascertain as much information as possible about the people in the lab and their behaviors. How many people are usually present in the lab and what are their roles? Are there always the same people in the lab or do people come and go? Does the cook consume his product? How sophisticated is the lab? Is it booby trapped? Are weapons present? Are children present?

Children pose a special set of problems. Very often these children are unsupervised and in poor health. In one study, 66 percent of all children located at meth lab sites tested positive for toxic levels of chemicals in their bodies. When you plan a raid on a clandestine meth lab, expect to encounter children who are going to need medical attention. It is usually best to bring a representative of a social service agency along on the raid.

Proper coordination with other agencies greatly enhances the success of any clandestine meth lab raid. All responders must be properly trained and equipped to enter the toxic atmosphere of a meth lab. Work with representatives of the health department or Environmental Protection Agency prior to conducting a raid.

Hitting the target and securing the occupants does not end the threat when dealing with a clandestine laboratory. Be acutely aware of the volatile and dangerous nature of the chemicals in the lab. To this end, every member of the raid team must be advised not to touch or smell any containers. Chemical containers should not be moved or opened. Do not plug in or unplug any electric devices. And absolutely no smoking.

Clandestine methamphetamine laboratories are becoming a common law enforcement problem throughout the country. It is a widespread problem that requires you to train and mobilize citizens in your jurisdiction. Once a meth lab is located, you are confronted with a dangerous crime scene that poses both short and long term threats to first responders. To mitigate these threats, develop a multi-agency response plan for dealing with and investigating clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.


Det. Joseph Petrocelli is a 20-year veteran of New Jersey law enforcement. He can be contacted through

Methamphetamine notes:

Culiacan, Mexico (Sinaloa Cartel) Sinaloa is a state in MX

Super labs produce meth by the ton (90% pure)

Remote, with their own security (heavily armed faction of the cartel) ak47

Cartel Hitman Commander X

Trafficker of meth into the US

Insatiable appetite for crystal meth in America

More than 10,000 drug related murders in Mexico in 2013

1.2 million meth users

meth is the new crack

withdrawl can last 2 weeks (life expectancy of meth addict is 7 years)

most addictive drugs (90% return to habit after rehab

cartel bribes local Mexican police officers

Cartel hires US citizens to traffick meth across the border in liquid meth, dark brown placed in soda bottles and containers placed into gas tanks

Tijuana to san diego (?) then to LA

Alameda county for the sheriff’s department Lueitentant

The cartel’s insinuate families into neighborhoods as distributors

Drug smuggling:

Islamic terrorists target Army base — in Arizona

By Sara A. Carter

November 26, 2007

The Washington Times

Fort Huachuca, the nation’s largest intelligence-training center, changed security measures in May after being warned that Islamist terrorists, with the aid of Mexican drug cartels, were planning an attack on the facility.

Fort officials changed security measures after sources warned that possibly 60 Afghan and Iraqi terrorists were to be smuggled into the U.S. through underground tunnels with high-powered weapons to attack the Arizona Army base, according to multiple confidential law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Times.

“A portion of the operatives were in the United States, with the remainder not yet in the United States,” according to one of the documents, an FBI advisory that was distributed to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, Customs and Border Protection and the Justice Department, among several other law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. “The Afghanis and Iraqis shaved their beards so as not to appear to be Middle Easterners.”

According to the FBI advisory, each Middle Easterner paid Mexican drug lords $20,000 “or the equivalent in weapons” for the cartel’s assistance in smuggling them and their weapons through tunnels along the border into the U.S. The weapons would be sent through tunnels that supposedly ended in Arizona and New Mexico, but the Islamist terrorists would be smuggled through Laredo, Texas, and reclaim the weapons later.

A number of the Afghans and Iraqis are already in a safe house in Texas, the FBI advisory said.

Fort Huachuca, which lies about 20 miles from the Mexican border, has members of all four service branches training in intelligence and secret operations. About 12,000 persons work at the fort and many have their families on base.

Lt. Col. Matthew Garner, spokesman for Fort Huachuca, said details about the current phase of the investigation or security changes on the post “will not be disclosed.”

“We are always taking precautions to ensure that soldiers, family members and civilians that work and live on Fort Huachuca are safe,” Col. Garner said. “With this specific threat, we did change some aspects of our security that we did have in place.”

According to the FBI report, some of the weapons associated with the plot have been smuggled through a tunnel from Mexico to the U.S.

The FBI report is based on Drug Enforcement Administration sources, including Mexican nationals with access to “sub-sources” in the drug cartels. The report’s assessment is that the DEA’s Mexican contacts have proven reliable in the past but the “sub-source” is of uncertain reliability.

According to the source who spoke with DEA intelligence agents, the weapons included two Milan anti-tank missiles, Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles, grenade launchers, long guns and handguns.

“FBI Comment: The surface-to-air missiles may in fact be RPGs,” the advisory stated, adding that the weapons stash in Mexico could include two or three more Milan missiles.

The Milan, a French-German portable anti-tank weapon, was developed in the 1970s and widely sold to militaries around the world, including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Insurgents in Iraq reportedly have used a Milan missile in an attack on a British tank. Iraqi guerrillas also have shot down U.S. helicopters using RPGs, or rocket-propelled grenades.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson would not elaborate on the current investigation regarding the threat, but said that many times the initial reports are based on “raw, uncorroborated information that has not been completely vetted.” He added that this report shows the extent to which all law enforcement and intelligence agencies cooperate in terror investigations.

“If nothing else, it provides a good look at the inner working of the law-enforcement and intelligence community and how they work together on a daily basis to share and deal with threat information,” Mr. Bresson said. “It also demonstrates the cross-pollination that frequently exists between criminal and terrorist groups.”

The connections between criminal enterprises, such as powerful drug cartels, and terrorist organizations have become a serious concern for intelligence agencies monitoring the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Based upon the information provided by the DEA handling agent, the DEA has classified the source as credible,” stated a Department of Homeland Security document, regarding the possibility of an attack on Fort Huachuca. “The identity of the sub-source has been established; however, none of the information provided by the sub-source in the past has been corroborated.”

The FBI advisory stated the “sub-source” for the information “is a member of the Zetas,” the military arm of one of Mexico’s most dangerous drug-trafficking organizations, the Gulf Cartel. The Gulf Cartel controls the movement of narcotics from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, into the U.S. along the Laredo corridor.

However, the sub-source “for this information is of unknown reliability,” the FBI advisory stated.

According to the DEA, the sub-source identified Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel as the drug lords who would assist the terrorists in their plot.

This led the DEA to caution the FBI that its information may be a Gulf Cartel plant to bring the U.S. military in against its main rival. The Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have fought bloody battles along the border for control of shipping routes into the U.S.

“It doesn’t mean that there isn’t truth to some of what this source delivered to U.S. agents,” said one law-enforcement intelligence agent, on the condition of anonymity. “The cartels have no loyalty to any nation or person. It isn’t surprising that for the right price they would assist terrorists, knowingly or unknowingly.”

Drug notes:

Meth in Montana: smoked, snorted, or injected.

New hottest drug scenes, Mx meth from the south

Global 350 billion dollar a year industry

To stay under the radar dealers must drive 100’s of miles to their customers

Stun gun/flashlight, sawed off shotgun (12 guage), glock 40 pistol (what an officer might carry,

“8 ball” quantity =3,5 grams   1 oz can bring 3-4 thousand $$ in remote areas.

Verses an oz of cocaine = $800

**used to be taking a few meth dealers off the street could leave the streets dry for a couple of months.

¼ oz. or a couple of 8 balls and you can make a couple of thousand $$

Mexican cartels set up distribution hubs throughout the NW . Dealers learned quickly that all they needed to do was place an order and receive a delivery.

Dealers tend to buy bulk and cut their stash with MSM , which means more profit by selling a lesser product.

Recently the streets have hit with a purer product that still competes price wise with the cheaper product. The only way to do that is make availability more efficient, in other words someone is making large quantity of product. This also means the Mexican cartels probably has wind of it and is looking for the Lab right along side PD.


Colorado, much like California and Arizona continually,

One decade the number of Hispanic residence grew by 73%

Cheap labor, building the city and it’s infrastructer

This also brings a level of violence to the community

150-200 gangs constantly doing battle

Gang unit

NW corner: Northside mafia NSM

Drive by assault drug trafficking, home invasion, burglary, chop shops

Starting at age 14, Gabe Tresco (aka Tre-dog) Real person, 26, his goal is to be the badest mother fucker in the gang…move to number 1. It was all about competition in the gang: who could steal the most cars or the nicest cars, who could win the most brawls, it was all about being the best. There was even a time when the gang whipped out dick to see who had the longest stick. There were no thought of consequence. Bash someone in the head and move on.

He nearly killed a taxi driver by beating him to death during a robbery. For that he got three years. And the violence paid off. He’d been doing a lot of “dirt” (crimes) which gave him more street cred. Competition for status breeds violence.

Francisco Gallardo (Cisco) didn’t care if he lived or died, which meant he had nothing to lose and made for a frightening level of violence.

Making money from , ho’s and gun smoke

Gang equals family

You don’t let disrespect go unchecked

N$M north side mafia (roots go back to 1980’s)

Greenlight –order to kill

Drug pipeline: dealing crack, heroine, meth, and marijuana

Some of the first porsches in Denver were driven by dealers

**paranoia due to METH use: shonda makes fun of him “You using your own product, dude?”

1993 known as the summer of violence in the media. That’s when police started a renewed crack down, when the public started getting caught in the cross-fire and innocents were getting killed.

shaved heads of new gang > turf war

strapped up = carrying a gun

The large NSM is a multi-generational gang. There is no hierarchy, no one person in charge. But there is a elder generation with more respect that is heeded when they speak. Big homies and little homies.

If little homies fuck up, their going to get “nut checked” kept in line.

Jump in = gang initiation – take a beating. Final step is when gang members cut a cross on your chest and then take turns pouring lemon juice in the wound and punching it .

Female gang members have their own initiation: sleep with a few homies at the same time, called the North side train.

Tattoo : PURO pure NSM from the original gang

Tags – NSM graffiti in the city “NSM   K with line thru is for kill

When friends die it makes a member stronger, their hate deeper, a soldier for the gang.

New gangs confused today…loosing focus. They need more guideance. While elders go to prison, the younger gang members have no one to lead them.

Cultural pride: being Chicano is more reason to have pride than being a gang member

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)