Let’s paint a scenario. You’re walking through a beautiful forest (possibly with a loved one by your side), when you stumble upon a ramshackle hut or abandoned RV that’s just begging to be explored. But before you proceed, law enforcement authorities warn there is a high likelihood that these structures are (or once were) functioning meth labs – and just setting foot inside could endanger your life. Here are some of the telltale signs that your new ‘secret spot’ is nothing more than a former crystal factory, courtesy of the Illinois-based MethNet program.
What’s that smell?
Is that… ammonia? Sulfur? Paint thinner? Since meth is essentially a stew of chemicals, most labs will emit a foul odor that is described as a mixture of cat urine and rotten eggs. So ideally, the smell alone will stop you from setting foot inside a former lab.
The look and feel of the place
Most meth labs will not appear very inviting. Lab operators may employ anything from guard dogs and video surveillance to rudimentary ‘Keep Out’ signs to ward off trespassers. In addition, the yard surrounding the lab will often be littered with trash. Refuse commonly found in areas of meth activity may include prescription containers, rubber hoses, dismantled batteries and soiled coffee filters.
Flora and fauna
As a result of the rampant chemical use in meth labs, the surrounding vegetation will probably be in pretty bad shape. Keep an extra eye out for ‘burn pits’, or black spots in the earth where lab owners have dumped toxic materials. Another clue is a large concentration of cigarette butts far from the lab itself; meth cookers will smoke a fair distance away from the lab in order to, you know, not blow up.
Beware of occupants
Meth lab occupants are a pretty conspicuous bunch. If the face guards and chemical residue on their clothing doesn’t give them away, their antisocial demeanor probably will. Also keep a look out for constant visitors to the establishment, especially if they exhibit symptoms of meth addiction; these can include incoherent speech, paranoid ramblings or antagonistic behavior toward others for seemingly no reason.
If you see anything suspicious during your woodland excursions, immediately contact the nearest law enforcement agency.
By Brad Nehring