Meth raid not seen as sign of wide use

After Severna Park discovery, police say drug found here in tiny amounts

`Always that fear that it could explode'

August 26, 2005|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County and police officials say they don't believe the recent discovery of an alleged "meth lab" in a Severna Park home is a sign that methamphetamine - which has ravaged some communities - is becoming a major problem here.

"Clearly, we're keeping a close eye on [meth use] because there is always that fear that it could explode," said Lt. Glenn Shanahan, who heads the county police narcotics unit. "But we haven't seen an explosion [in use] yet."

Brian Kauffmann, 33, of Severna Park was arrested and charged with possessing and selling the drug after his home was raided by federal and local officers early Monday, according to federal officials. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Gauvey ordered at a hearing yesterday that Kauffmann be held without bail, and that he be detained pending availability of bed space in a lockdown drug rehabilitation facility, said Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore.

The drug raid on Kauffmann's house in the 300 block of Pertch Road followed a four-month probe by county police narcotics investigators and agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Authorities alleged that Kauffmann sold meth to a DEA informant at least five times in May and June, according to federal court documents.

During Monday's raid, authorities found "large quantities of the precursor chemicals to make meth" in his garage, said Laura A. DiCesare, a DEA spokeswoman.

The federal charges were filed before authorities searched the garage, and Kauffmann has not been charged with manufacturing meth.

Meth has received national attention because of the devastating effect the drug has had on some users and families; and the financial drain it has had on social services programs and police resources in Western and Midwestern states.

It is a highly addictive stimulant that can be made from readily available ingredients including distilled water, red phosphorus and pseudoephedrine - commonly found in over-the-counter allergy medications. Recipes for the drug are prevalent on the Internet, but the process of "cooking" the drug is volatile and creates toxic waste, DiCesare said.

"Out in the Midwest, [meth] houses blow up and they leave behind fumes. They are very toxic and very dangerous - so even one lab is a bad lab," DiCesare said.

After Monday's raid, Shanahan pulled drug statistics for the county. "In 2002 to 2003, we saw zero meth," he said. "Around '04, we started seeing user amounts. We're still only seeing user amounts - a gram here and a gram there."

County health officials also reviewed their drug data this week.

"With the bust, we were curious; we wanted to see," said Elin Jones, a spokeswoman for the health department. Of the 1600 adults whom the department assessed for addiction, two people reported use of methamphetamine, she said. The reporting period was from July 2004 to June 2005.

Erin Artigiani, a deputy director at the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, College Park, said, "Virginia and Pennsylvania have seen an increase in the number of [meth] labs, so it has moved further east, but cocaine and crack seem to be the stimulants of choice here."

This year, federal officials say, four meth labs have been found in Maryland. Last year, three were found in the state, authorities said.

Some residents of the middle-class Riverdale Forest neighborhood in Severna Park, where the suspected lab was raided, said Kauffmann worked in construction. They expressed concern for Kauffmann's children, but most did not want to comment publicly for this story.

Police said four children, all under the age of 15, lived at the house, but police did not comment on who now has custody of those children.

Authorities said they had received complaints about traffic and people coming at odd hours in the months before the investigation.

"It's a quiet neighborhood," said Chuck Plitt, who lives nearby but doesn't know Kauffmann. "I guess you just can't get away from it; it can crop up anywhere in any type of society."

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