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The Metropolitan Police Department hosted a meeting  last night to help residents determine if their neighbors are cooking meth in their homes. No, it wasn’t a seminar for Breaking Bad fan-fic authors; while meth busts in the District are rare , D.C. cops are anticipating growth in the city’s meth use, and want wary citizens to stay on the lookout for the chemically cooked drug before things get out of hand.

Here’s how they figure: Meth has been a growing problem in the country in recent years, and although meth users are far more likely to live in rural areas, the drug is starting to trickle into cities. D.C., which currently has one of the lowest user rates in the country, is a transient community, and when people move here, police argued, they could bring their meth habits here with them.

On the most practical level, Sergeant James Boteler said at meeting at the Third District police station, meth provides a stronger high than cocaine, and since it takes a very little amount of meth to get high, it’s cheaper than other stimulants (about $160 a gram on the streets).

Meth is one of the most addictive and destructive drugs, and once people start using, Boteler said, they could start cooking it themselves—-a dangerous process that involves a combination of chemicals that could easily explode, a particular concern in densely populated urban areas.

As Boteler and Officer Brett Cuevas gave a PowerPoint presentation explaining how meth is made (hopefully none of the dozen people in the audience got any ideas), they offered some clues that people could use to determine if their neighbors are producing meth:

  • You spot your neighbor with an absurd amount of empty Sudafed packages (a key ingredient in meth).
  • They keep their windows open in the winter.
  • Their house smells of chemicals, specifically an overwhelming  urine or nail polish remover odor.
  • They have bottles of drain cleaner, nail polish remover, paint thinner, or other solvents.
  • They won’t let you into their apartment.

The seminar was prompted by the recent bust of an alleged meth lab in Columbia Heights, which is still under investigation. Cops have also busted a meth lab in the U Street NW area and last year took 300 grams, or $30,000 worth of meth, from an Adams Morgan home.

The officers said they’re most often seeing meth used as a club drug, and have encountered the “finished product” more of than they’ve found labs. Many of the people who attended last night’s seminar live near the suspected meth lab in Columbia Heights, on Clifton Street NW.

“I heard about the Clifton Street [meth lab],” said Columbia Heights resident Matt Stevenson. “I wanted to learn more about it.”

Correction: Due to a reporting error, this post initially referred to “growing” meth, rather than cooking or making it.

Photo by Perry Stein