Police discover meth lab on Northwest Side

March 25, 2008 4:38:28 PM PDT
Chicago Police officers discovered what they suspect is a crystal meth lab operating inside a Northwest Side two-flat. The estimated value of the drugs is nearly $3 million. One man is in jail facing felony charges.

Police say they also confiscated a gun, cocaine and a stash of money. They made the discovery following an investigation that began with a tip.

While a 29-year-old is charged with methamphetamine manufacturing, police are waiting for results from the crime lab to confirm that the drug is meth. Because the ingredients to make the drug are hazardous, meth labs in Chicago are very rare. It is much more common in farming communities.

DEA warning signs are now posted all over the Northwest Side two-flat. This comes after Monday night's bust. After an investigation, police executed a search warrant and found millions of dollars worth of drugs. What appeared to look like methamphetamine was found drying in nine trays.

"There was quite a bit. The preliminary weight was 18 pounds of this substance, could have been worth up to $3 million," said Lt. Steve Masters, Chicago Police Department.

Taken into custody was 29-year-old Sergio Echevarria. Police are not sure if the meth was made on site. Although, investigators say, all the material to cook it was found inside the apartment.

Monday night's discovery comes as a surprise to neighbors. Eladio Arce lives next door. He is very much involved in the community policing program, CAPS, and Arce says he no idea what was going on next door.

"I'm surprised. I'm surprised this close something like this could happen," Arce said.

The bust also scared neighbors, considering the chemicals used to make the drug are extremely hazardous.

"I've heard of places like that blowing up," said Bonnie Kistenmacher, neighbor.

"I found out it was explosive. It could have blown up and taken out my house, too," said Arce.

Meth labs in the Chicago area are very rare. There have only been a handful discovered in the past several years.

"Meth labs in the Chicago area are very rare. There have only been a handful discovered in the past several years. It basically takes quite a bit of effort for someone to set one up and it takes a lot of chemicals and different products to make the substance. It causes fumes and other things. So, generally in a high density population, it wouldn't be an ideal location to locate a meth lab," said Masters.

Because meth ingredients are hazardous, the fire department's hazmat team was called out to help. One of the key materials to make the drug is cold medicine. Two years ago, a state law was passed to make it harder to buy certain cold medicines. In addition, there are more laws pending to help curb the manufacturing of meth. It is considered one of the most dangerous and deadly drugs.


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