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Lonoke County fights meth problem with LeadsOnlabs

By Amanda Terrebonne

August 10, 2010

A recent drug arrest in Lonoke County sheds light on a law enforcement tool tracking down meth users. And all it takes is a simple click online to follow your purchases at the drug store.

The LeadsOnlabs program is used all over Arkansas. Lonoke County has used it for almost three years. And officials there say it's contributed to some 90 percent of meth busts a year. They're pictures of meth lab busts from Lonoke County, a mess that still needs cleaning up in the area.

"We're seeing what you call the one pot cooks or the shake and bake-methods that seem to be really picking up," Lt. Jim Kulesa said.

Kulesa with the Lonoke County Sheriff's Office says they're not fighting these drugs alone. The online tool "LeadsOnlabs" plays a big role.

"We use it daily," Kulesa said.

The investigative database is for law enforcement and pharmacists. It tracks purchases of cold medications with pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient for meth.

"It will tell us the person, their driver's license number, how much they purchased, where they purchased from," Kulesa said.

They're details busting this man, James Calvert of Vilonia, over the weekend. Kulesa says he was caught trading meth for Sudafed pills.

"A lot of the meth cooks want to stay under the radar so they will go to people and say you know get me a box or two boxes of pills," Kulesa said.

Authorities also get your address and can track pseudoephedrine purchases for up to 60 days on "LeadsOnlabs," often looking out for repeat buyers.

"With this program, we're able to put this person on a watch list where we'll receive an e-mail every time they purchase pseudoephedrine," Kulesa said.

A constant update followed by a criminal check.

"See if they are a known associate of someone with a criminal past," Kulesa said.

And piece together a case to erase those photos from developing again.

Kulesa says one challenge they do face is a practice called "Smurfing." That's when multiple people go out to buy the cold meds with pseudoephedrine so no trends are picked up by police.

The Lonoke County Sheriff's Office is making some gains here; "Smurfing" was involved in the arrest over the weekend.

"LeadsOnlabs" is a Dallas-based company that serves more than 800 law enforcement agencies nationwide.

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