A new, simpler way to make methamphetamine known as 'shake-and-bake' is bringing more people into the meth-production business. The method also is more mobile and gives off less of a stench, which makes it harder for police to detect.
These days, you don’t need a stove for shake-and-bake.
Or to cook methamphetamine.
The drug itself hasn’t changed, but the process of making it has, according to Chief Deputy Jack Campbell of the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office. Meth stoves, or “labs” — often converted coolers — are being traded for plastic bottles with the newfound prevalence of what authorities have termed “shake-and-bake” methamphetamine.
“It’s basically self-contained,” Campbell said. “Everything is put into a plastic jug or two-liter soda bottle, and when they shake it up, they don’t let it settle out. They pour that liquid through a coffee filter.”
Because it’s relatively easy, shake-and-bake has brought more people into the meth production business, he said.
“Before, with a typical meth-using group, there were only one or two people who knew how to cook the meth,” Cambell said. “Using this method, virtually any of them can make it.”
The sheriff’s office hasn’t yet found any remnants of the new, more mobile meth factories, but deputies know they’re out there.
“We’re getting information about them through informants,” Campbell said.
Making “shake-and-bake” methamphetamine that’s self-contained within a bottle means the odor — which authorities compare to an overpowering stench of cat urine — isn’t as strong as that of traditional cooking methods.
“Now they can go out in a pickup truck and make it in their pickup truck as they’re driving around,” Campbell said. “It makes it harder for us to detect it.”
Contributing to the phenomenon are stronger forms of cold medication, which often contains pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine. Because the new method makes smaller batches out of less ingredients, fewer pills are necessary.
“Previously they had pills as low as 30 milligrams,” he said. “Now they’ve got the 24-hour tablets that are 240 milligrams. The potential is it takes a lot less because you’re getting a lot out of that ephedrine tablet.”
Whereas traditional cooking methods sometimes led to deadly explosions inside homes, there haven’t been any reports of “shake-and-bake” bottles erupting, although it is possible for the shaking to create giant fireballs, Campbell said.
“If it does happen, if they go out in the country and do it someplace, they’re less likely to cause damage to their homes,” he said. “Some people actually have a conscience and they don’t want their families around it, so they take it out to the country. We think there’s more going on remotely than in houses.”
That might explain why Springfield police say the shake-and-bake method of making methamphetamine hasn’t become a problem within city limits.
Meth use down in city
In fact, meth use locally appears to be decreasing, said Deputy Chief Clay Dowis of the Springfield Police Department.
“It’s barely on the radar compared to cannabis, cocaine and heroin,” Dowis said. “We have seen an increase in heroin. Meth, for whatever reason, never became the big issue that it did in other communities.”
The new method hasn’t taken hold either in Christian County, which was a hotbed of meth-making activity until a state law took effect restricting the purchase of cold pills.
“I can’t say we’re seeing that ‘shake-and-bake’ method with the bottle,” Christian County State’s Attorney Tom Finks said. “I’m still seeing the traditional methods, and right now we’re seeing a decrease in all meth cases.”
As Sangamon County faces financial struggles and cutbacks, investigating the new meth cases is proving frustrating, Campbell said.
“It’s going to be a difficult process for us to be as efficient as we were, but we will continue to investigate these types of crimes,” he said. “The uniformed patrol division will take a more active role in finding people who are out buying pseudoephedrine tablets and the batteries they need to make meth.”
Deputies haven’t seen a spike in the number of crimes associated with meth, either, such as thefts, burglaries and robberies, but Campbell suspects numbers will increase in the near future as convicts find their way back out of jail and prison.
“The groups we’ve locked up over the last three to four years, they’re beginning to get out of prison, and we anticipate these groups getting back together,” he said.
Rhys Saunders can be reached at (217) 788-1521 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to look for
Do you suspect someone might be making methamphetamine by the new “shake-and-bake” method? Here are some things to look out for:
* A bottle – typically a two-liter plastic bottle or small jug – with a white film or white dry powder
* Blister packs of pseudoephedrine
* Bottles of starting fluid
* Lithium batteries