Steamboat Springs When more people know what a methamphetamine drug lab looks and smells like, more labs will be uncovered in the community, Lt. Lori Mariorty said.
That was one of the strongest messages to come out of the allday forum on Drug Endangered Children.
More than 60 residents, ranging from a former meth user to attorneys and child-care professionals, attended the forum sponsored by Grand, Routt, Jackson and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
On Monday morning, Mariorty talked about drug lab awareness and the medical aspects of meth. In the afternoon, a forum allowed residents to ask questions to representatives from law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney's Office and social services groups.
Mariorty, who works with the North Metro Task Force, said her agency went from finding 30 labs to 60 labs to 90.
"It wasn't because they were starting more in the area, it was because people started recognizing it," she said. "Most of the time (communities) have (labs), but as a community you might not recognize them."
In the last eight years, GRAMNET has had 40 meth lab investigations in the four counties it covers. Only one lab has ever been discovered in Steamboat Springs.
Mariorty said, on average, one in 10 labs is detected.
She estimates that 4,000 to 5,000 labs exist in Colorado.
Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney Bonnie Roesink, a member of the panel, talked of the prevalence of meth in Craig. She sees it from the people the DA's office deals with on a daily basis to the restaurant workers whose rapidly decaying teeth are an indication of meth use.
"It really is a problem," Roesink said. "We do really need to work on a coordinated effort to really stop it."
Steamboat Springs Police Detective Ross Kelly said meth has no economic boundaries.
The North Metro Task Force has found labs in $2,000 trailers to $450,000 homes on golf courses, Mariorty said. They have seen teenagers using the drug and a 68-year-old.
Many of the panelists said the community needs to educate the public, such as social workers, teachers, doctors, firefighters, sales clerks and even trash collectors, on what ingredients are in meth and how to determine if it is being made. The community also should know the signs of a child who has been exposed to it, they said.
Steamboat Springs firefighter Jeanne Power said education has created greater awareness.
"A lot of times people are way more willing to tell me what is happening, especially kids," she said. "This is happening. Although we may not see (meth labs), we do know we have been in a lot of them and we will start seeing more."
Kelly said the police department has educated employees in stores around Steamboat on what mix of ingredients are used in meth.