TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs says an operation involving police and state drug agents has resulted in 305 arrests and seized ten methamphetamine labs over the past five days.
OBN director Darrell Weaver and Tulsa County DA Tim Harris made the announcement Tuesday. The operation not only included Tulsa but other northeastern Oklahoma communities.
In Oklahoma, you can only buy about two small boxes of pseudoephedrine products each month. To get around that, meth cooks recruit others to go out and buy their limit then sell it for cash or trade it for meth. Those people are called "smurfs."
Now, 305 of them have been arrested after a large undercover operation by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and other Green Country agencies. I went along with agents as they made their arrests.
Just at the one pharmacy where we were, people were buying pseudoephedrine products every couple of minutes for illegal purposes. There were way more "smurfs" than there were cops to arrest them.
Josh, an OBN agent, works undercover. He can see instantly on the state's database when someone buys pseudoephedrine at a location they're staking out, and then quickly runs a check on them to see how much they've tried to buy in the past.
Person after person not only bought every bit legally allowed, but were also blocked 5, 10, 15 times at different pharmacies.
Once Josh verifies the person's record, the undercover officers inside help identify them for arrest. Once spotted outside, troopers swoop in to help make the arrests.
Even with all the arrests going on outside, the computer showed people were still trying to buy pseudoephedrine inside. This much "smurfing" is a daily occurrence at every pharmacy in Green Country.
"Anytime you make 305 arrests in five days, it's incredible," said Darrell Weaver, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
After they're arrested, the smurfs are brought to another location to be searched and processed. Authorities say a box of pseudoephedrine can be sold to a meth cook for $50 or traded for a half gram of meth.
One of the suspected "Smurfs" has a four-year-old and a seven-month-old and is four months pregnant. She says she bought the box so she could get high, which she does every couple of weeks but doesn't think she has a problem.
"I'm not a bad person. I take care of my kids all the time, that's my life. It's just something I do every now and then, I guess," She said.
After they're processed, the "smurfs" load up a bus and are carted off to jail. Agents want legislators to understand what kind of crisis meth is and help them stop it.
Most officers and prosecutors say the only way to cut down on meth is to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug.
There's a lot of resistance to that, so they hope at the very least, people who are denied will have to wait a long time before they can buy again.
No one can explain why meth is so much bigger a problem here than the western half of the state. Agents from over there were blown away by what they saw here.