Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer has asked local hoteliers to “be diligent” in preventing methamphetamine labs in local hotels and motels.
On Nov. 8, a methamphetamine lab was located in the Economy Inn in Warsaw. It was the third lab found at the motel this year. It was also when Thallemer decided to take action.
On that same November day, Thallemer went to the Economy Inn where police and fire officials were on scene. He then returned to his office and drafted a letter to all local hotels and motels noting, “Cooking methamphetamine is an extremely dangerous homemade method of producing the drug. It can be accomplished anywhere, but is often done inside. Your hospitality establishment could be an unwilling host, creating the danger of an explosion which could result in the liability of injury, burns and toxic fumes.”
Kosciusko County is now on track to be No. 5 in Indiana for the most number of methamphetamine labs this year. Unfortunately, hotels and motels are often used for meth manufacturing.
Indiana State Trooper Andy Cochran, who heads the ISP Meth Suppression Unit for District 24 – which includes Kosciusko County - believes hotels/motels and even vehicles are used as locations to produce the illegal and highly addictive drug because the majority of those doing the manufacturing do not have residences. He stops short of calling them homeless, but acknowledges they are the people who often lose everything because of the addictive qualities of the drug. “They’ll sleep on someone’s couch for a while but when people say, ‘You’re not doing (drugs) here,’ they save up a few dollars and go to a motel,” explained Cochran.
In his letter to hoteliers, Thallemer said meth production “is a community issue that everyone must address.” In fact, earlier this year Thallemer asked local pharmacies to voluntarily stop selling the one necessary ingredient in methamphetamine: pseudoephedrine or Sudafed. Only Zale Drugs and The Pill Box have voluntarily suspended those sales, said State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki who promises to again fight in 2013 to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug.
Last year, legislators looked at making pseudoephedrine available as a prescription only, but instead chose to enact a stronger tracking system. That was supposed to reduce the number of people buying the drug, but Kubacki said the tracking system just does not work and the number of methamphetamine labs found in Kosciusko County alone this year is proof of that.
As of Sept. 30, Kosciusko County had reported 33 meth labs and there have been several more located since then.
Mike Stetzel of the Wyndham Hotel in Warsaw said they already take precautions to prevent methamphetamine production in the hotel by refusing anyone who has only cash and no valid credit card and those who try to pay with a pre-paid credit card that does not have a person’s name printed on it.
Stetzel said he knows others in the hospitality business who are also taking the same kinds of precautions and are not afraid to turn away anyone they believe may be considered suspicious. The cost of renting a room for a night or two is simply not worth of the risk of having to pay thousands of dollars to clean a room that has had a meth lab.
In closing his letter, Thallemer added, “The battle to end this scourge must be fought at all levels. The cost of these crimes includes big dollars spent for toxic cleanup, medical care, investigation, prosecution, incarceration, rehabilitation, family social services, etc. The real cost of these crimes, however, is the human toll on the victim, their families and our community.”
Anyone within the city limits of Warsaw who suspects illegal drug activity should call 574-372-9515. Illegal drug activity in the county should be reported to 574-267-5667.