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Meth lab raid shocks some Clear Spring residents, sign of the times for others

February 07, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • On Monday, officers from the Hagerstown Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency converged on this house at 39 S. Martin St. to investigate a suspected methamphetamine lab in an upstairs bedroom.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

CLEAR SPRING — With two rocking chairs sitting on the front porch and wind chimes ringing in the breeze, the two-story house at 39 S. Martin St. looks like any other home in this quiet town.

The house is a few doors down from the Clear Spring Veterans Memorial and across the street from a St. Paul’s Lutheran Church cemetery. A playground sits about 100 yards to the rear.

On Monday, officers from the Hagerstown Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency converged on the house to investigate a suspected methamphetamine lab in an upstairs bedroom.

Two people were seen leaving the house freely on Tuesday morning, and two others were seen entering.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no one had been arrested in connection with the raid, Washington County Narcotics Task Force Agent Frank Toston said. He declined further comment.

Mayor Paul Hose Jr., who lives less than half a block from the house, said Tuesday he was surprised to have such allegations and police activity in Clear Spring, a town of about 350 people.

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“It’s a quiet town,” he said.

Hose said the town doesn’t have its own police force, but he and the town council frequently ask the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for more patrols.

“They’re always good about it,” he said.

Town Councilman Theodore Hovermale said he helped direct traffic during the raid on the house.

“I don’t think it surprises anyone anymore,” Hovermale said of the allegations in a town like Clear Spring. “It can happen in any small town.”

One Clear Spring woman who wished to remain anonymous said crime in the town at the base of Fairview Mountain gradually has worsened.

“I haven’t wanted to live in the town for a while,” the woman said. “It just seems like there’s a lot of stuff going on. They may be petty crimes, but it’s still happening.”

She said the methamphetamine raid was just the latest in a string of troubling events. One of the others was a  July 2010 arson that destroyed several homes in the 100 block of Cumberland Street, she said.

The woman also said vandalism has stepped up. She mentioned recent incidents of tires being slashed.
Mulberry Street resident David Mills said Tuesday morning that he hadn’t heard about the Monday police action.

He said he agreed that crime was on the upswing, noting the fire on Cumberland Street and another case that involved marijuana being grown on the banks of a stream near his house.

“The fire was kind of close,” said Mills, who has been a Clear Spring  resident for eight years. “Personally, I’m not fearful for my life. You just got to keep your eyes open.”

Dangerous drug
Authorities executed a search warrant at the house on Martin Street at about 3:30 p.m. Monday, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said.

A team of DEA chemists fromWashington, D.C., arrived at the house at about 9 p.m. and determined that the material at the scene was consistent with methamphetamine production, Mullendore said. Those experts were to test the material to verify the authenticity.

Methamphetamine is a powerful pyschostimulant that is highly addictive. Materials used in its manufacture are hazardous and can result in dangerous explosive fires.

A large utility truck was parked outside the house Monday night, and a large orange notice was posted on the door that read: “Warning. A clandestine laboratory for the manufacture of illegal drugs and/or hazardous chemicals was seized at this location.”

That sign was not on the door Tuesday morning.

Mullendore on Tuesday declined to say what led police to the house, directing questions to the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

According to theU.S. Department of Justicewebsite, methamphetamine labs have become increasingly prevalent.

In 2002 more than 7,500 labs were seized in 44 states, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration El Paso Intelligence Center National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System.

While methamphetamine production remains most common in the western  United States — particularly California — seizures of methamphetamine labs in other parts of the country have become more commonplace, the website said.

TheU.S. Department of Justicesaid methamphetamine labs are found in urban and rural areas. Some of the signs include drawn curtains; frequent visitors at unusual times; secretive and unfriendly occupants; excessive amounts of trash, particularly chemical containers; and unusual odors, such as ether, ammonia and acetone.

More information about meth can be found at the Justice Department website at www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs7/7341/7341p.pdf.

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