Tulsa officers head to stores to stop drug making

Thursday, May 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Police are asking retailers to get identification from customers before selling large amounts of household cleaners and other common chemicals that could be used to make methamphetamine.

"The simple fact is that methamphetamine is manufactured from completely legal products with legitimate purposes," police Maj. Bill Wells said Thursday.

Tulsa officers began hanging posters at businesses this week that show common supplies like car starting fluid, fertilizer and
coffee filters, which are often used to make meth.

"My hope is that if someone tries to buy 40 bottles of car starting fluid that somebody would be suspicious enough to get
identification," Wells said. "I think a meth cook will then walk away, leaving the 40 bottles on the counter."

If a customer refuses to give identification, retailers are asked to report a general description of the person and the customer's vehicle to police.

For customers who give identification, police would then visit the consumer's home to find out the intended use of the chemicals and report back to the store, Wells said.

More than 130 meth labs were investigated by Tulsa police last year. Already this year, the department had handled about 70 meth
labs, he said.

Statewide, the number of meth cases handled by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation grew from 34 in 1995 to 721 in 1999, ranking the state third in the nation for methamphetamine cases.

Wells hopes retailers outside Tulsa will also begin to recognize materials used to make meth and report customers who buy large
quantities to the OSBI or local officials.

"We could chase meth labs all day," Wells said. "You have to do something proactive to stop it."

The posters and retailer involvement is the second phase of a $235,000 federal grant Tulsa police received to fight methamphetamine labs, he said.

About $210,000 of the grant was used toward paying officers overtime for the cleaning of the hazardous sites where meth labs are discovered. The third phase is equipping officers with a picture manual similar to the retail posters that show types of materials and tools used in the making of the drug.