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Catching thieves red-handed

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Farmers who are tired of methamphetamine users stealing their anhydrous ammonia now have a new weapon to help stymie the thieves. GloTell is an additive that acts as a theft deterrent by physically staining people who come in contact with the treated product.

It will stain the hands, clothes, or anything it comes in contact with, a pinkish color. The visible stain, even if washed off, is still detectable by ultraviolet light 24 to 72 hours later.

Any methamphetamine made with GloTell treated anhydrous ammonia is extremely difficult to dry and will become gummy. The meth would be almost unusable unless a desperate addict chewed it, which would cause his mouth to turn pink.

If, somehow, users find a way to snort the tainted drug, the nose will turn a florescent pink. If injected the telltale pink will show up at the injection sites.

The dye was developed by a farmer from southern Illinois who was fed up with meth cooks stealing his fertilizer. GloTell is marketed by Royster-Clark Inc., a major farm service supplier with headquarters in Norfolk, Va. It was introduced to farmers in August at the Illinois State Fair. It's also good to detect anhydrous ammonia tank leaks. The additive will cost about $9 per ton of anhydrous ammonia.

Methamphetamine, also known as crank, ice and speed, is a white powder which is an extremely addictive stimulant. It can be smoked, snorted, injected or orally ingested. The quick, short lived high it produces is very costly with serious side effects including paranoia, brain damage and strokes.

Anhydrous ammonia, is needed to make methamphetamine. According to the Northwest Indiana News, police say it's the only ingredient for meth that's not available over the counter.

Theft of anhydrous ammonia has become an increasing problem for Indiana farmers. The Hoosier Farmer magazine reported there were 417 meth labs discovered in the state between Jan. 1 and May 5.

It's hoped that GloTell will decrease the production and use of meth. Truitt Clements, a spokesman for the Illinois-based GloTell Distributors LLC, said that during product testing, GloTell was added to anhydrous ammonia tanks at farms that had been having problems with meth thefts in Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana. He reported that within a week, the thefts stopped.

While GloTell renders anhydrous ammonia almost unusable for meth production, Brazil Growers Coop Manager Jim Mishler said the chemical has no effect on the fertilizer. GloTell will not harm the soil or plants and is no safety threat to farmers or even children. According to Mishler, its been cleared by the EPA and state chemists.

Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. David Phelps said the State Police have been involved in 17 meth labs in Clay County this year between Jan. 1 and Nov. 2.

Sgt. Rob Gambill of the Clay County Sheriff's Dept. said they've found two labs manufacturing meth in the county this year. Those would be included in the State's total.

Gambill said they've had 52 arrests for possession of meth or a controlled substance through Oct. 15 this year compared to 56 arrests for all of 2003.

"There's more commercial use of meth in the county now than before," Gambill said. "That means the meth is being imported rather than being made here.

"GloTell is a great thing. It should decrease the number of ingredient thefts and the number of explosions. But we'll probably still have the usage problem.

"There's so many new ones hooked on it," Gambill continued. "They have a taste for it now and will probably continue to use the drug whether it's imported or home made."

Brazil Police Chief Mark Loudermilk said two meth arrests were made in the City this year. Most meth labs are found in the rural areas trying to avoid detection.

Loudermilk was asked if he thought GloTell would make a difference in meth production and usage.

"It's got potential," he said. "It will make ingredients a lot harder to obtain or make the meth more difficult to use. Almost nightly there is an attempted anhydrous ammonia theft. Time will tell. But it's got a lot of potential to help make arrests."

Mishler hopes the GloTell will make a big difference.

"The biggest thing is something needs to slow down the use of methamphetamine," Mishler said. "It's devastating to families and to the health of the people using it. We've got to come up with something to slow this thing down."

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