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Ohio sees resurgence in meth busts, five years after record low

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Methamphetamine lab seizures in Ohio have soared more than 400 percent in the past five years, accompanied by a spike in production resulting from new ways of making small quantities of the drug in mobile laboratories, officials said on Sunday.

The sharp rise in drug busts reverses a downward trend that had followed the advent of a tougher law in 2005.

Ohio meth busts reached 635 over the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, which runs from October 1 to September 30, up from a record low 112 in 2008, according to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Seizures had declined from a high of 444 in to 2005 following the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which forced retailers of nonprescription products containing pseudoephedrine and other active meth ingredients to place those products behind the counter and required consumers to show identification for each purchase.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office confirmed the numbers, first reported in Sunday's Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"We're seeing a continuous spike," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told the Plain Dealer. "It is easier (to make the drug). We used to talk about 'meth houses,' or places people would make this. Well today, you can make it in a pop bottle."

The "one pot" or "shake and bake" method uses two-liter bottles and easily available household items.

In neighboring Michigan, those methods accounted for more than 75 percent of all meth labs, according to a 2011 Michigan State Police report.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which tracks drug arrests and seizure statistics by federal fiscal year, plans to have final numbers at the end of next month.

The data comes from a voluntary reporting process by law enforcement around the state and does not include many of Ohio's 88 counties, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General's office said.

The drug seizures are concentrated in a handful of Ohio counties, many of them rural. Nearly one-third of all seizures occurred in Summit County, including the city of Akron, just outside Cleveland, with 191 meth lab seizures.

The counties representing Cleveland and Columbus reported two meth lab seizures each and Cincinnati reported 11.

Nationally there were 11,210 meth labs discovered in 2012, with Ohio ranking sixth among U.S. states. It trailed Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration website.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Matthew Lewis)

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