Backlog at drug labs put suspected dealers back on streets -

Backlog at drug labs put suspected dealers back on streets

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By KMOV Web Producer By KMOV Web Producer

Deputies arrested a group of suspected meth dealers and users on Friday. As of Monday night, they're back on the street.

Deputies call these people dangerous, so the question is, why were they released? It's part of a systemic problem in our judicial system.

Police say a Villa Ridge mobile home owner was already on probation for using meth when his house caught on fire for making it. They argue he never should have been back at home in the first place, but a backlog at the drug lab gives them no choice.

"It's very dangerous," Nathan Bone, a neighbor who spotted the fire and called 911, said. "Toxic fumes were going around through here."

Neighbors say they'd smelled the noxious fumes leaking from the shed in the driveway for weeks until a suspected meth lab exploded Friday night.

"It scared me to death, it really did," Jodi Hanners, another neighbor, said. "With all of our kids around here, I think it's crazy."

Sgt. Jason Grellner dismantles meth labs across Franklin County. And it's been a busy week.

"Three labs, 10 people, 40 hours," Sgt. Grellner said of the department's quick work.

But of those, only one is in jail -- picked up on a probation violation. The rest are back on the streets pending the outcome of official drug testing at a state lab.

"What happens in the meantime?" I asked.

"They continue to make meth. They still has the ability to go out and purchase the items they need to feed their own addiction, and they're not going to stop," Sgt. Grellner said. "We have people who have cooked two to three times before we've gotten lab results back on their first cook."

Prosecutors have to have proof -- lab-tested results that what detectives suspect is meth really is.

"The state patrol laboratory is just being overrun by the sheer number of labs," Sgt. Grellner said.

And that makes a backlog of more than 100 cases for the sergeant alone. It will take nearly nine months to clear.

"Is that putting people in danger though when these guys are let out?" I asked.

"Oh certainly," Sgt. Grellner said. "Certainly."

Sgt. Grellner argues that the only real fix is to take away meth-makers' main ingredient.

"If you cannot get pseudophedrine, you cannot make meth," Sgt. Grellner said. "I can give you everything in this bunker, but if I don't give you one tablet of pseudophedrine, you can't make meth."

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