North Country authorities report spike in 'one-pot' meth labs

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) A Plattsburgh couple face charges of cooking methamphetamine at home and authorities say its part of a growing trend in the North Country.

Police say James Harris and Morisa Cruz were arrested on several offenses related to cooking meth in their apartment on Brinkerhoff in the City of Plattsburgh Friday night. After receiving a tip, police searched the apartment and found a "one-pot" meth lab.

Authorities say the one-pot labs are popping up at an alarming rate in the area are warning the public about the home-spun operations.

"It's very dangerous to the public," said Plattsburgh Police Chief Levi Ritter.

It's different from what many have seen on TV on shows like Breaking Bad. Compared to a controlled lab setup, Chief Ritter says these are quicker and easier for would-be cooks to set up. "Transportable, hard to detect," he said.

A recent report from the RAND Corporation shows the use of methamphetamine is up nationwide.

"It's throughout the entire region," said John Bernardi with the United Way of the Adirondack Region.

Local authorities are worried about the sudden increase. In 2017 and 2018 The New York State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team responded to only one "one-pot" meth lab in the city. So far this year they've responded to seven calls. Two this month alone.

"We're seeing it in a lot of different areas," Chief Ritter said. He said the bottles used for the method are being found everywhere -- in homes, on roads, even once by a gas station. Once they're used they can't be used again, and they're tossed so that the meth makers don't get caught. "It's a felony."

Authorities want the public to be aware of these hazardous bottles because how they're handled could mean the difference between life and death. "Those contents are still flammable, they're very toxic, they could look innocent," Ritter said.

If the cap on the discarded bottle is closed, as soon as it's opened and oxygen gets inside, it can cause a chemical reaction that triggers an explosion.

Ritter says it's common to see people collecting bottles for recycling, or even to green up the area from litter, and it's those people that officials are worried about. "We don't want people to avoid living everyday life and doing the things that make our area so great, but we want people to be extremely careful because this can be very dangerous," Bernardi said.

Police say the one-pot labs can come in all different shapes of bottles and that they often contain a brownish liquid with a heavy smell of chemicals. If you come across one, back up and call police.