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.

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