Methamphetamine lab seizures are on the rise in US cities and suburbs, raising new concerns about a lethal drug that has long been the scourge of rural America. Data and interviews from an AP investigation found growing numbers of meth lab seizures in cities such as St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville; and Evansville, Ind.. "No question about it—there are more labs in the urban areas," says the coordinator of the Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force. "I'm seeing car fires from meth in urban areas now, more people getting burned."
Part of the reason for the rise is "shake-and-bake" labs—smaller, portable labs that lack the strong odor that previously drove meth makers to hide in rural areas. "Bad guys have it figured out," says a DEA official. "You don't have to be as clandestine." Authorities are also seeing evidence that inner-city gangs are becoming involved in meth production and distribution. The increase in labs is especially troubling because meth brought into the US from Mexico also is becoming more pervasive in urban areas. The AP notes that so-called Mexican "super labs" are increasing production, making meth more pure and less expensive, and then using existing drug pipelines in big cities. (Read more methamphetamine stories.)