Auburn police to hold drug-awareness class

AUBURN - If the neighbors' house sees plenty of late-night activity, reeks of cat urine and the trash can is filled with cold medicine blister packs, they might be too sick with flu-like symptoms to sleep or empty the cat box.

Or a meth lab could be operating next door.

Auburn police will hold a free, two-hour drug training class for residents at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday that pinpoints signs that might indicate nearby drug dealing or manufacturing activity and ways to combat the problem.

"Chemical odors, gas canisters with hoses sticking out, activity in and out at night," said Auburn Cpl. Tony LaFreniere, who will lead the class. "Those little glass canisters with roses in them are camouflaged meth pipes."

In July 2006, Auburn police busted a methamphetamine production lab at 1618 Summit Ridge, at the time believed to be the Southeast's largest meth lab, capable of producing 150 pounds of methamphetamine.

"The street value of one pound of meth is $24,000," LaFreniere said.

In March 2006, county and federal law enforcement officials uncovered an underground cocaine processing lab just outside Auburn's city limits. The submarine-style laboratory was buried beneath a storage shed on property owned by Gary Krist, notorious for having kidnapped and buried alive Emory University student Barbara Jane Mackle in 1969. Krist is serving a prison sentence on drug-related federal charges.

Meth is made of volatile chemicals. About 20 percent of meth labs explode, LaFreniere said. Once a lab is discovered, taxpayers spend about $2,000 for a certified Drug Enforcement Administration cleanup team to decontaminate the house, according to the DEA's Web site.

Auburn police officials were unable to compile by press time the number of drug busts made in the past year, but LaFreniere called the town "an untapped resource."

"Auburn is infested. I was here three days and did my first search warrant," he said. "Everybody was in their comfort zone. They didn't believe they would get caught."

Once considered poor man's cocaine, methamphetamine use permeates all levels of society, LaFreniere said. Manufacturers tend to set up shop in rural areas where neighbors are too far apart to smell chemicals or notice nighttime traffic, he said.

"The reason the lower (income levels) are more affected is because the ingredients are cheap and easy to get," LaFreniere said. "All the ingredients can be had for $50 and the profit can go up to $1,000. Now it is hitting the upper-class soccer moms who put it in their coffee to stay awake or clean house. It doesn't matter where you live or (your) economic stature, it is hitting everywhere."

SideBar: If you go

' What: Drug training class for residents

' Where: Auburn City Hall, 1369 Fourth. Ave.

' When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

' Cost: Free