Why We Need Parents to Turn in Their Meth Lab Kids


There is an escalation of shake and bake cooks, mobile meth labs, and suburban operations. Current law enforcement investigative techniques require identifying a suspect, building probable cause, securing a warrant and raiding the property. This is a significant drain on law enforcement resources. There is an additional tool that is available at a much lower cost, is safer for the community while encouraging whistle blowing.

I confidently believe "failure to blow the whistle" is a large, underappreciated contributory cause of meth labs. Noxious odors, unusual purchases of "cook ingredients", and erratic behavior of cooks will be observed by parents, spouses and siblings. Family members are among the first to detect a budding lab. Family members or friends may choose not to communicate their concerns to law enforcement for fear of the costs of whistle blowing outweighing any perceived benefits. Consequently, the desire to intervene, call the police, and grant consent to enter the premises is not encouraged under Ohio's mandatory 3 year prison term for manufacturing. More succinctly, the costs of not advancing some benefit to whistle blowing heavily outweigh any benefit of involving the police.

This family silence I call "the mum effect". The mum effect is a direct unintended consequence of Ohio's mandatory sentencing on this highly combustible, poisonous, covert crime. However, I believe a climate change in Ohio's 88 prosecutor's offices is appropriate, smart and long overdue.

Clearly, there is a reporting responsibility for knowingly permitting drug activity in a home. When the parent calls me for advice, I will advise them that they must call law enforcement immediately and that they should stay away from the "lab" until trained responders arrive. Naturally, the parents will ask me what will happen to their 21 year old son. I will tell them that this is a 2d degree felony carrying a mandatory minimum 3 years in prison. I am quite certain that no parent will call 911.

My fear, our collective fear, is that these folks will resolve to either (a) try and clean up the cook shop or (b) confront the irrational, drug infused meth addict son. Neither option is good public policy. Both escalate the dangers to the family, neighbors and community at large.

I highly recommend that Ohio's county prosecutor's consider offering some incentive via public awareness that if a you suspect a loved one is engaged in the illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine that reporting this suspicious activity will trigger your office to review the case for a plea to the F3 Unlawful Assembly of Chemicals. This offers a substantial inventive to the family (eliminating the mandatory 3 year prison term) while aiding law enforcement in its war on meth labs.

This is sound social policy already being implemented in gun laws (turning in handguns), prescription pill drop offs, newborn "safe haven" laws, and even our municipal Court's recent warrant amnesty program. The bottom line is we need to increase the benefits to family member tipsters while decreasing the costs of whistle blowing.