Meth classes draw crowd
Hundreds of Garfield County residents, hoping to learn more about a growing problem in Garfield County, attended methamphetamine awareness classes this week. Colorado Regional Policing Institute presented the classes, which focused on how to identify meth labs and their hazards. Meth makers can find directions to make meth on the Internet and buy everything they need over the counter, said presenter Lynn Riemer, a chemist with the North Metro Task Force in Adams and Broomfield counties. Making meth is so simple that “if you can make oatmeal cookies you can make meth,” Riemer told an audience Wednesday at Aspen Glen. The fact that making meth involves everyday items makes it easy for a social worker, real estate agent or rental owner to stumble into a lab without knowing, she said. Meth labs don’t look like “Frankenstein’s lab,” Riemer said. “It’s more just like a dirty kitchen.”But a room that looks like a dirty kitchen may be filled with deadly and explosive toxins, she said. Riemer offered some telltale signs of meth labs. “Tubing coming out of anything should scream at you,” she said. Red- or blue-stained coffee filters are also a sure sign, as are matchboxes with the strike strips torn off, yellow iodine stains or crystals in the house or on furniture, and two-layer liquids. The dangers of a meth lab are very real. Riemer told story after story of labs exploding – sometimes with as little change to the lab’s environment as opening a door – and of people becoming critically ill after exposure to airborne toxins. The crowd that gathered at the Aspen Glen clubhouse Wednesday reacted most strongly to meth’s effect on kids whose parents use or manufacture meth.Sexual abuse and violence toward kids by methamphetamine users is rising, Riemer said. Riemer told a story from the Denver area where a man stabbed his girlfriend’s two children dozens of times with a pair of pliers. One of the kids died. “It’s really a concern. I have two kids, and they go to visit their friends,” said Silvia Barragan, a housing manager for the Advocate Safehouse Project. “Now I feel like I have to go and visit their parents.”Many social-services and foster-care workers attended the presentation at Aspen Glen Wednesday morning. The unusual violence can be part of a symptom of meth use – the inability of users to quit doing something once they’ve started. That symptom can take any form from cleaning, to taking things apart, to looking for something, according to HBO’s “Crank: Made in America,” which Riemer showed at the meetings. Meth, which has plagued the rural Midwest and West Coast, has found its way to Colorado. “Meth is everywhere,” Riemer said. That includes Garfield County, said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.The Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team is working on four times as many meth cases right now as it is cocaine cases (12 and three, respectively), Vallario said. Historically, law enforcement has tried to snub cocaine trafficking, but TRIDENT now focuses on meth, Vallario said. Though the presentations this week were sometimes in-your-face, and many audience members hid their eyes from graphic pictures, the intent was not to scare people. “The term is ‘awareness,'” Vallario said. “We don’t want to create paranoia, we want to create awareness.”We know meth is here and we know we’re going to see labs,” he said. The upside though, is that Garfield County seems to be on the ball. “Community awareness around here has been awesome,” Riemer said. With one presentation left to go, 200 people had attended a class, she said. “I’m really impressed.”
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.