Springfield, MO

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Program helps property owners spot meth labs

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by Steven Diegel

SBJ Contributing Writer

With recent findings indicating that Missouri is one of the top producers of methamphetamine in the United States, area property professionals have taken a keen interest in how the trend could affect their property and tenants.

A special presentation hosted by the Springfield Apartment and Housing Association (SAHA) helped answer some of those concerns.

Representatives from the Springfield Police Department and the city prosecuting attorney's office addressed more than 85 property owners, managers, maintenance people, and residents at a Jan. 15 SAHA meeting.

They advised property owners and managers on the signs that indicate methamphetamine production and the proper course of action to take should they suspect such activities.

"The reason we had the event was so property professionals could recognize some of the signs of a meth lab being set up on the property, or when (the tenants) move out, how to tell that one was there on site," said Shell-Marie Hill, SAHA executive.

Organizers said property professionals could play a key role in helping to fight the crime, for through maintenance work and an observant eye they are often in a position to note some of the tell-tale indicators of its presence.

"These are people on the front line," said Cindy Rushefsky, first assistant

prosecutor at the prosecuting attorney's office.

"We wanted to make sure they knew the risks, what to look for, and what to do in that situation," she said.

Rushefsky and Officer Dan Schrader outlined where many of the crimes frequently occur and some common signs of meth production, including large quantities of over-the-counter drugs, various filters and instruments, and chemicals utilized in the process of making the drug.

"We were trying to get across the fact that anyone who is a landlord or property owner is at risk for a meth lab problem," Rushefsky said.

"Many of the people we deal with are on rental properties, like duplexes, apartments or hotels," she added.

Such awareness could be the biggest key for rental professionals, who must also contend with the dangers that go hand in hand with methamphetamines, including use by children, hazardous fumes and even explosive reactions from the chemicals used.

"They have to protect the other residents of the properties," Hill said. "If you have a meth lab, it is not safe for the children or anyone else living there."

Officials, who cited a number of statistics and actual case studies, encouraged anyone who suspects the presence of a meth lab not to approach the suspect but instead contact the proper law enforcement officials.

Organizers said both the turnout for the event and the reaction to the material presented was very favorable.

"We had a wonderful attendance," Hill said. "I think they were very well-informed and very pleased with it."

Rushefsky agreed, adding she was pleased with the number of requests to speak for other groups.

"What pleased us is that so many people came up to us after we spoke to ask us questions and see if we could speak at other groups," Rushefsky said.

The pair will continue to speak on

the subject for other groups, including City Utilities, area PTAs and local businesses.

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