By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Local law enforcement officials held a meeting this morning to discuss ways Havre retailers can fight the production of methamphetamine.
The Meth Watch program was launched in September by former Gov. Judy Martz and is modeled after similar programs in Kansas and Washington. It encourages retailers to monitor items that are ingredients of meth by using strategies to reduce theft and monitor suspicious purchases.
Common ingredients used to make meth include iodine, starter fluid, drain cleaner, paint thinner, aluminum foil and over-the-counter cold and asthma tablets containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.
Tri-Agency Task Force agent Shane Haberlock said one way to keep the medications out of the meth labs is to keep them in sight.
"One huge curtailment of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine is if you could put it in a place where you can monitor it," Haberlock said. He also suggested requiring identification for the purchases.
Some retailers have decided to limit the number of boxes a person can buy. Doris Hanson, an owner of Western Drug, said her business has limited the number of boxes of the medications that are put out on the shelves.
Another option for retailers is to keep a lookout for people who purchase combinations of ingredients or buy them in large quantities.
"That's a huge indicator that there's something going on," Haberlock said.
"The best help you can give law enforcement is a name or a description of what the person looks like," Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera said.
Hill County Extension agent Jennifer Wells said today's meeting was made possible by a $500 grant from the state Department of Health and Human Services, which paid for videos and other materials that will be distributed to retailers.
Haberlock said it can take anywhere from eight hours to three days to clean up a meth lab, a process that costs $3,000 to $7,000 and requires two to four certified people to be on-site for the duration of the cleanup.
Letters were sent to about 30 businesses in Havre, targeting those who are more likely to carry the ingredients for meth, Wells said. Several agricultural retailers told her they could not attend because they had meetings to go to in Great Falls.
Only Hanson and a representative of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce attended.
Wells said she would have liked to see a larger turnout for the meeting, but she will follow up with the businesses that did not attend.
"I would have liked to see more folks there," she said. "We will be doing some individual contacts with the others to see if we can provide them with resources."
Any retailer who wishes to get involved with the program can contact Wells at 265-5481, ext. 233.
On the web: www.montanamethwatch.com