How to Spot Your Local Meth Lab

By Bryan Le 06/21/12

If you suspect your neighbor of cooking meth, here are some tell-tale signs to look out for.

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Use your common senses. Photo via

Meth labs: they don't help property values—and there could be one next door. But thankfully for the citizens of Oneida, NY, the Oneida Dispatch has published a handy guide on how to tell if you've got a neighborhood Walter White. A meth lab, the guide warns, looks just like a house—and there may, or may not, be lots of people coming and going. So it's hard to tell, really. But if you put your senses to work, you can try:

First, use your eyes to check out your neighbor's garbage. Questions you should ask yourself about their trash: Is there a lot of it? Are there any kinds of bottles—soda bottles, household cleaner bottles—in it? What about plastic tubes? Bottles are used in the popular "Shake and Bake" method, in which the cooks put all the chemicals into a two-liter bottle and, well, shake it. If you have no idea whether your neighbors' discarded bottles were used for Shake and Bake, you should apparently call the cops straight away. “If you see something and aren’t sure what it is, don’t touch it, and call us,” says Oneida City Police Investigator Mike Burgess, possibly sentencing himself to many long hours on the phone. “We will come out and investigate.” He's right about not touching: the chems will make you seriously itchy. Other visual signs might include your neighbors' hand sores from all that cooking, and their nasty teeth from using meth. Covered windows suggest there's something to hide.

Second, use your nose. Odors to be wary of include camp fuel, automotive starting fluid, rotten eggs and the distinctive aroma of cat urine—only ten times stronger. “People experience different smells,” advises Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley. But if you notice it, notice it.

Third, there's always your ears: unexplained explosions are rarely a good sign. Although, if one happens, there might no longer be a local meth lab left to worry about.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter