North Carolina had 561 clandestine methamphetamine lab responses in 2013, a state record and a 22 percent increase from the year before, according to information from the N.C. Department of Justice.
The number increased from 460 in 2012 and 344 in 2011.
In Ashe County, only one clandestine (meth) lab was busted, while in neighboring Wilkes County, there were 50 busts in 2013, the highest number in the state. While Wilkes had the most meth busts in the state, the Ashe County Sheriffs Department say almost none of what is produced there makes it into its jurisdiction.
“A very small amount manufactured in Wilkes makes its way into Ashe County,” said Lt. Grady Price, head narcotics investigator for the Ashe County Sheriff’s department.
Price said most meth produced in the state is for personal use or small-scale sales. In other areas neighboring Ashe County, Alleghany had one lab bust while Watauga busted 11 labs.
“They are making enough to support the habit for themselves,” he said. “They’re making enough to get their high.”
Most of the busts happened in the state’s rural counties. In the state’s urban areas, Wake County had 10 busts, Mecklenburg County had six and Guilford County had zero.
The state’s Department of Justice has been working to make penalties on manufacturing meth harsher.
According to the NCDOJ, meth producers who are putting children, seniors or those disabled in danger are required to face more time in jail. Also, manufacturing meth in the state is a Class C felony, while possession is a much lower charge.
Price said that, as of two years ago, first-time offenses require judges to order a PJC, or a prayer for judgment continued.
In N.C., citizens are allowed one PJC every three years. If within that time frame a person faces a second charge, the PJC is revoked and they are charged with both offenses.
Price said a majority of the meth being found in Ashe County is coming from Mexico, where there are more high-scale operations.
“We don’t see many producers because it’s safer to buy than to make, because of the dangers of manufacturing meth,” Price said.
If anyone has information about meth being manufactured or sold within the county, they are asked to contact the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office.
Wil Petty may be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @wilpetty