Locks a common sense tool

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The growing abuse of methamphetamine, more commonly referred to as meth, has led to the restrictions of sales of products that are used as raw materials to manufacture the drug. An old fashioned tool - a lock and key - is now being used to help with the battle as well.

Two of the primary ingredients meth cooks require are found in over the counter cold and allergy medicines, as well as anhydrous ammonia. Sales of products containing pseudoephedrine are already monitored, and now farmers' cooperatives that sell bulk anhydrous ammonia are getting help securing their supplies, thanks to a grant from the Office of Drug Control Policy.

The locks, which cost $90 each, are available for Iowa counties as part of a federal grant, and are then distributed by the County Sheriff's Department.

Cherokee County is participating in the program and the Sheriff's department is in the process of distributing the locks to appropriate locations.

The locks will secure bulk anhydrous ammonia tanks, preventing theft of the liquid, which is illicitly used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

Area elevators are voluntarily participating in the program. Some have reported thefts from their tanks, and some odd items near the tanks as well. Some elevators have seen bicycle inner tubes left behind, which are used by thieves to transfer the liquid during the theft.

These locks, manufactured in Humboldt, are made of hardened steel. According to the manufacturer, they can't be sawed or even cut by a three-foot bolt cutter. Elevator employees are given several tips on how to place the locks to easily indicate that they have been tampered with.

That 's when law enforcement and the hazardous materials team are called. Anhydrous ammonia is nasty stuff, and can cause severe and potentially fatal burns on impact, especially affecting the eyes and lungs.

The locks aren't a sure thing - one elevator employee in another county was caught renting out the key for $500 a night - but they can help further reduce the amount of so- called "home grown" meth to free law enforcement to find dealers who import the drug into our state.

Cherokee County and the Sheriff's Department are to be commended for their diligence and effort in taking preventative action against this invasive, national drug crisis.