Summit continues to rank high for meth labs

Summit County continues to struggle with methamphetamine.

The county Drug Unit found another 85 meth sites last year.

The multi-jurisdictional group now has identified more than 900 meth labs and places where meth equipment was dumped in Summit County since 2001.

Meth remains a major problem in the community, sheriff’s spokesman Bill Holland said this week.

The Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network says in a new drug trend report that the availability of meth has increased in the Akron-Canton area, in part, because it has become easier to make.

People can create meth — made by mixing such items as lithium batteries, ammonium nitrate, drain cleaner and pseudoephedrine — using nothing more than a 2-liter soda bottle. The portable method is commonly called “one-pot,” meaning that now a “meth lab” can be lugged around in a simple backpack.

The drug report rates the availability of meth in the Akron-Canton area as a “10” on a scale of 0 to 10.

“If you think your community is immune; think again,” said Eric Wandersleben, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services. “Addiction does not discriminate. It can impact anyone, anywhere, any time.”

Summit County far outpaces the rest of Ohio when it comes to meth — at least according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA’s National Clandestine Laboratory Register lists 395 meth sites in Summit.

Highland County, in southwest Ohio, is a distant second with 58.

The DEA lists only sites reported by local law enforcement — meaning the meth problem might seem better or worse in some communities than is the reality.

“It’s only as good as what’s reported to us,” DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden said about the federal database.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office also maintains an online public database — considered the only one its kind in the state. That website lists 895 meth sites. Not all of this year’s busts and dump sites have been added to the website.

Holland said the sheriff’s office reports its busts, but other police agencies might not. That could explain the discrepancy between the county and DEA numbers, he said.

The county website also lists only busts involving the Drug Unit, Holland said.

Based on the county website, the meth problem is centered in Akron, which accounts for 498 of the entries.

Summit County became known several years ago as the “meth capital of Ohio” because of the number of meth busts here.

Community and law enforcement officials argue that they are much more aggressive in attacking meth labs, leading to the misconception that it’s a bigger problem here than elsewhere.

“There’s definitely merit to local authorities being on top of the issue,” Wandersleben said. “Law enforcement is very active in terms of meth intercepts in Akron-Canton. ... It’s worth mentioning that the number of meth lab busts should not necessarily be interpreted as Akron having a larger problem than other parts of the state.”

He said state data show Ashtabula County consistently has had the biggest problem in the state with the drug. It ranks third in Ohio on the DEA’s website with 48 known meth lab sites.

Clermont, with 45, and Williams, with 35, round out Ohio’s top five counties.

The only other Akron-area county in the top 10 is Portage, with 23 meth lab sites.

Darryl Brake, executive director of the Summit County Community Partnership, said his group is pleased that local authorities are so aggressive in taking down meth labs.

“I’m happy to be a resident of Summit County and don’t believe I can be in a safer place,” he said.

He added that his group is more concerned about marijuana now, given efforts to legalize the drug in other states.

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