Nearly 90% of stolen cars test positive for meth

by William Wilkinson

Updated: 7:49 AM MST Mar 5, 2018. KOAT Channel 7/ABC

Sasha Lenninger, General Assignment Reporter

“It transfers around the car like nicotine. If you’re smoking it and wherever the smoke goes, that is where the meth will be deposited. "


Most of you know someone who’s had their car stolen.

Albuquerque ranks number one in the nation when it comes to car thefts. Last year alone, close to 10,000 cars were stolen from our community.

Jonathan Armijo has had his truck stolen three times. “I recovered it. It was spray painted black,” Armijo said.

When he looked inside, it was filled with a lot of things that were not his.

“It was full of trash, drug paraphernalia, stolen items,” Armijo said.

Ron Rhoades is a certified methamphetamine inspector and he tests recovered stolen cars for drug residue.

“I go through it, I verify VINs and license numbers. Then I search the car and look for chemical use or making of meth. If none of that is found, I go through the car again and look for the evidence of using -- needles, pipes, things like that,” Rhoades said.

Rhoades swabs certain areas of a car, looking for residue. Then he sends the swab to a lab. Results take a few days.

One or two of every five cars he tests has drug paraphernalia.

“Needles is probably the main thing. Occasionally we will see pipes. We will find actual drugs, weapons, bullets, things like,” Rhoades said.

But even more shocking, Rhoades said 90 percent of the cars he tests are positive for meth.

“It transfers around the car like nicotine. If you’re smoking it and wherever the smoke goes, that is where the meth will be deposited. The more times it's done, the thicker the layer is and the higher the concentration is,” Rhoades said.

If a stolen car is recovered, do not go inside it.

According to Rhoades it can be dangerous.

“If a person jumps in the seat and sits down, they could be sitting on a needle. There are other drugs," heroin, cocaine and fentanyl that are all possibilities in these cars,” Rhoades said.

The drug residue can be absorbed through skin. A child may accidentally touch the residue and then place its finders in its mouth.

Most of the time, residue is found on the dashboard, windows, door panels and sometimes in the backseat.

If the damage to the car plus the cost of testing is greater than the value of the car, usually an insurance company will total the car. But Rhoades said often, a car can be cleaned, but he said to make sure it’s done by a professional.

Has the Meth Epidemic Gone Away?

by William Wilkinson

Since we aren’t seeing or hearing about meth labs as much in the news as in previous years, don’t think they’ve gone away! If anything, usage has increased creating more contaminated dwellings. 

Heroin attention has replaced meth lab busts and explosions in the news and on the streets. Statistically, lab seizures have dropped drastically. Why manufacture when one can get a better quality of meth and pay lower prices from product delivered via the California-to-Midwest pipeline?

This trend should make landlords and realtors more cautious than ever! Since those who are contaminating the dwellings are not being apprehended as they were in previous years, contamination is increasing, causing unsuspecting renters or buyers to be living in hazardous environments. Now, more than ever, dwellings need to be tested prior to changing occupants.  

Clandestine Lab Information (what to look out for)

by William Wilkinson

Since 2007, when safety elements, ltd. first started testing meth labs, we have had many questions posed to us regarding testing and meth labs in general.  Here are a few which hopefully will assist you.

Q:  Will my insurance company cover the testing and cleaning?

A:  You will have to check with your insurance company.  We have seen some cover all of the testing and cleaning, but some will not cover any of the cost.  


Q:  My cleaning company said they have tested the areas they cleaned and the contamination is gone.  

A:  DO NOT TRUST the cleaning company to test your home!  In fact, do not let the cleaning company representative and the testing firm be together while testing is being conducted.  While on this subject, make sure the testing firm and the cleaning company are separate companies.  This will guarantee that there was not any influence on the areas of testing.  The testing company is guaranteeing that your home has been decontaminated and your family will be safe!


Q:  How much will this cost?

A:  This depends on the number of samples taken and the area of your home.  


Q:  How will I know that the samples have not been tampered with after the testing company leaves the site?

A:  We, at safety elements, ltd., handle the samples as "evidence" and work within a "chain-of-custody" program to ensure that your samples arrive at the lab without any outside influence.


Q:  Why do I have to test or clean the dwelling?

A:  Many think that since you can't see or often smell meth, its not there.  Many documented cases of children and adults have suffered from health effects due to methamphetamine contamination.  See for more information or contact us!


Q:  I am a renter and I may be living in a past meth lab.  What rights to I have?

A:  First have the dwelling tested.  If the tests come back noting that the dwelling is contaminated, there are a few options you can pursue.  Contact us for more information.


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