More than 500 meth labs reported in South Carolina in 2012

By Lia

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The State Law Enforcement Division confirms 521 meth labs have been reported in the state this year.

Not all agencies are required to report to SLED so that number can be higher, according to a SLED spokesperson.

SLED Narcotics agent, Max Dorsey, called the meth problem in South Carolina an epidemic during testimony before congress on Capitol Hill in July.

He testified that in 2007, 26 meth labs were reported. In the first six months of this year, there were already 302 busts.

North Charleston police found a meth lab late Wednesday evening at the Relax Inn on Ashley Phosphate Road. A meth lab was less than a half mile away at an Extended Stay motel on Nov. 28.

North Charleston Lieutenant Greg Gomes said the two incidents are likely not related, but added it is uncommon to see meth activity in the city.

He said meth makers are using hotels and motels more often because it is easier to get away from the scene without getting caught, and the process of making the meth is getting easier.

"They are able to go into a hotel room and rent it. It's not their house necessarily where their family will be or people close to them, so they can go in and produce the meth and in a day or two check out of the motel and move on," he said.

Gomes said this is a problem for police.

"It makes it more difficult for law enforcement if they bounce from hotel to hotel," Gomes said.

Gomes said communication between agencies is important to combating the issue locally. He also says it's the community job to report anything suspicious.

"People just need to be mindful," he said. "Be on the look for things that seem odd."

Representative Chip Limehouse said Thursday that he is submitting legislation to make a tougher penalty for meth makers.

"What we are trying to do to the criminal element is send a message that you aren't welcome," he said.