BERWICK — Police said meth labs are popping up all over Columbia County, but authorities believe one reason so many are being found in Berwick is because the communtiy is close to the cities of Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre.
Police said the meth lab at the home on West Front Street in Berwick is at least the sixth one found in the borough since December. Ten people were arrested, including three teenagers. Authorites said methamphetamine is addictive and easy to make.
“Most of the ingredients, if not all of the ingredients, can be bought at local stores. Individually they all have a legitimate use,” said John Soprano, the regional director of the Attorney General’s Narcotics Bureau.
Sudafedrin is one of the main ingredients used to make meth. It’s the same ingredient found in congestion medicine, such as sudafed. Another ingredient needed for the meth is iodine, which you can also find at local drug stores.
“Story related from a local pharmacist where four people came together in a car, all came into the pharmacy, all came in to buy sudafedrin. They didn’t all have colds,” said Columbia County District Attorney Thomas Liepold.
Authorities said one of the reasons this keeps happening in Berwick is because it’s so close to Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, where there are lots of pharmacies for people to buy the ingredients needed to cook the meth.
Pharmacies limit the amount of sudafedrin one person can buy at a time, so authorities say it takes several people going to several pharmacies to get the amount needed to make meth.
“It takes literally an army of people. We refer to them as smurfs. Who go out and hit the pharmacies far and wide to accumulate as much sudafedrin as possible,” said Liepold.
Police also believe more people are becoming educated about meth so they’re reporting possible labs more often.
The Columbia County District Attorney’s office and the Attorney General’s office are now teaming up to create a task force that will specifically target meth.