Arrest on western end of county yields precursors
On Saturday, Dec. 27 at approximately 11 a.m., local police officers made a traffic stop that led to the discovery of precursor items which are used in the illegal manufacturing of crystal methamphetamines.
Further investigation led to the discovery of anhydrous ammonia and other items that were discovered in a wooded area off Railroad Street in the Nokomis area of Atmore. These items were consistent with the manufacturing of crystal methamphetamines.
The Alabama Drug Enforcement Agency was contacted in reference to a hazardous cleanup site and then Harbor Ferguson, a cleanup crew from Spanish Fort, was dispatched to the scene and took possession of the items.
Two subjects were arrested and held in the Escambia County jail under a $50,000 bond each. Both Lewis Joseph Jackson, 34, of Perdido and Steve Craig Tutton, 38, of Bay Minette were charged with unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of anhydrous ammonia.
Crystal methamphetamine manufacturers in Escambia County have in the past stolen anhydrous ammonia from farmers who use the substance as a fertilizer in Monroe County and Florida, according to Keith Hutchins, commander of the 21st Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force.
When a crystal methamphetamine lab is discovered, the Alabama Department of Forensic Science is called in to take samples of substances present and then a hazardous materials crew responds to safely clean up and remove the substances, Hutchins said.
Cleanup, which can cost from $3,000 to $10,000, is paid for by a federal grant, Hutchins said.
Crystal methamphetamine labs can be recognized by either the distinctive smell of anhydrous ammonia, or more commonly, by the smell of ether, which is also used in the manufacturing process.
In addition to crystal methamphetamines, marijuana, crack cocaine and prescription drugs present the biggest drug problems in the county, but crystal methamphetamine is the fastest growing drug problem in the area, Hutchins said.
The 21st Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force is comprised of the following law enforcement agencies: Escambia County Sheriff's Department, Atmore Police Department, East Brewton Police Department, Brewton Police Department, Flomaton Police Department, Escambia County District Attorney's Office and the Escambia County Commission.
The Task Force receives 75 percent of its funding from a grant funded by the Bureau of Justice Affairs Division of the United States Department of Justice which is administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The remainder of the funding is provided by the Escambia County Sheriff's Department, Atmore Police Department, Brewton Police Department and the Escambia County District Attorney's Office.