ROCKINGHAM — Police are dealing with their first meth-related investigation of the new year.
The Rockingham Police Department received a call just before 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 regarding suspicious activity at a house on Aslington Street from a former resident who knew the residence to be vacant, according to Chief Billy Kelly.
Inside, detectives found evidence of what Kelly called a methamphetamine disposal site, with several items used to make the caustic cocktail. The lab was not active and Kelly did not want to elaborate on the specific evidence items Monday as the investigation is ongoing.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was called in to assist on Friday.
Kelly also said it was unknown whether or not the drug was manufactured at that house or just dumped there.
There were no suspects as of early Monday afternoon, but Kelly said investigators were trying to track down who may have used those items.
“Hopefully we’ll have an arrest soon,” he said.
The Rockingham investigation was the third state agents had responded to (as of Friday) in 2018, according to spokesperson Patty McQuillan.
The number of meth labs across the state fell by more than 50 percent in the past two years in 2017, after peaking at 561 in 2013.
Special Agent Kelly Page told the Daily Journal in an email last week that she didn’t have any data to explain the decrease.
But in talking to officers around the state, she said, it seems the decline can be attributed to two things: the rise in heroin and opioid use; and an increase in the availability and quality of crystal methamphetamine produced in Mexico and other parts of the U.S.
Both Page and Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons agree on the main reason for the local decline: federal prosecution.
Because meth was becoming a growing problem, the sheriff’s office and the SBI initiated a federal meth conspiracy investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s office in 2014.
“That investigation has led to the federal indictment and arrest of 65 individuals in and around Richmond County who are involved in domestic methamphetamine production,” Page said. “We believe that the federal investigation has made a significant impact on methamphetamine production in that area.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]