COLUMBUS police officers used an organizational meeting for establishing a Neighborhood Watch program in the area around 11th and Washington streets Tuesday night to provide a standing-room-only crowd with tools to help them improve conditions in their crime-plagued section of the city.
Speakers including Mayor Kristen Brown and Police Chief Jason Maddix stressed that success depended on citizen involvement.
One of the major problems in the downtown residential area has been crimes involving or related to drug use, specifically meth.
Several residents at the meeting spoke of meth deals conducted on downtown streets and finding drug paraphernalia in alleys.
Acknowledging the perennial problem, police provided a list of things residents could look out for in identifying so called meth houses.
They are clues all residents of the city should follow:
Unusual odors: Making meth produces powerful odors that can smell like ammonia or ether.
Covered windows: Meth makers often blacken or cover windows to prevent outsiders from seeing in.
Strange ventilation: Meth makers often employ unusual ventilation practices to rid themselves of toxic fumes produced by the meth-making process. They might open windows on cold days and set up fans, furnace blowers and other unusual ventilation systems.
Elaborate security: Meth makers often set up elaborate security measures, including “Keep Out” signs, guard dogs, video cameras or baby monitors placed outside to ward off people approaching the premises.
Dead vegetation: Meth makers sometimes dump toxic substances in their yards, leaving burn pits in the grass or vegetation.
Excessive or unusual trash: Meth makers produce large quantities of unusual waste that might contain packaging from cold tablets, lithium batteries that have been torn apart, used coffee filters with colored stains or powdery residue, empty containers — often with puncture holes — of antifreeze, white gas, ether, starting fluids, Freon, lye, drain opener, paint thinner, acetone, alcohol, other chemicals, plastic soda bottles with holes near the top, plastic or rubber hoses, duct tape, rubber gloves and respiratory masks.
Police also suggest that occupants of meth house might exhibit unusual behavior such as:
Paranoid behavior: Meth makers tend to act in an extremely paranoid and secretivemanner.
Staying inside: Residents of houses containing meth labs might remain inside their homes for extended periods of time.
Smoking outside: Residents of houses and other structures containing meth labs often go outside to smoke so they can avoid igniting a fire or explosion.
Frequent visitors: Although residents of a house or other structure containing a meth lab might stay in or near their homes, they often receive a large number of visitors, especially at night.
Mobile garbage: To avoid detection of their illegal activities, meth makers might burn their trash, place it in the trash collection area of another house or building or cart it away and dump it elsewhere.
While individually these characteristics are not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing, they do represent situations that — when combined — can raise suspicions.
Police stress that residents should only observe, and when suspicions reach a level of concern, report them directly to police.
It is important that action in these situations be taken by professionals, those trained to deal with them.
That would be the police.
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