A suspected clandestine drug laboratory was shut down in Helper last Wednesday and one arrest was made in connection with the alleged drug production facility.
City police executed a search warrant on the evening of May 10 after the department found evidence to support a suspicion that a residence contained a controlled substance and clandestine laboratory equipment.
Sgt. Ralph Vose and Officer Stephen Boyer worked the case throughout the day and the department obtained a search warrant which was executed at approximately 9:30 p.m. at 118 South Main Street Apt. 1 in Helper, virtually across the street from the police headquarters.
After the department executed the warrant, one suspect, 32 year-old Rebecca Gamble, was arrested for possession of amphetamine and a clandestine laboratory. The arrest marks the fourth time in less than a year that Gamble was arrested in Carbon County for alleged drug-related offenses.
In June of 2005, the Sun Advocate reported that Gamble was arrested in Helper and booked on June 4, 2005 for allegedly driving under the influence of an intoxicant and unlawful possession/use of drug paraphernalia after being stopped for a reported failure to signal while driving.
In September, the newspaper reported that Gamble had been booked on Aug. 29, 2005 for reportedly driving under the influence of an intoxicant and unlawful possession/use of drug paraphernalia by Price city police.
And last month, Gamble's name appeared again the newspaper's report of jail bookings, stating that she had been arrested and booked on April 16 by Helper police for alleged unlawful possession/use of drug paraphernalia, unlawful possession/use of a controlled substance and intoxication.
Helper Police contacted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which worked with the Helper department on the incident. The DEA assisted in removal of various hazardous substances found on the premises.
The department also called the regional hazardous material support team of the Utah Division of Emergency Services and Homeland Security. This HAZMAT team serves Carbon and Emery counties and worked to decontaminate the arrestee prior to her being booked into the county jail.
In addition, the Carbon County HAZMAT team made entry into the suspected lab and removed hazardous material from the residence.
Utah County also responded with a HAZMAT team. Utah County's team used its more sophisticated equipment to remove and sample various products that were allegedly used or produced in connection with the suspected meth lab.
Helper Police Chief George Zamantakis described the suspected lab as a small operation.
"It wasn't very sophisticated," said the chief. "However, from small to large, our police department is going to respond and be proactive in removing these kinds of drugs from our community and going after people who are making and selling these substances."
Individuals who operate meth labs put themselves and their neighbors at risk because of the types of substances used in the lab and the processes used in producing amphetamines.
Zamantakis noted that the effects of drug labs reach much further than the immediate time and place where the lab is operated. Current and future residents of homes where laboratories existed are placed at risk of exposure to potentially dangerous substances.
"We have a zero tolerance," said Zamantakis. "We are going to aggressively go after these kinds of people."
After the initial entry into the residence, police and other response teams worked for more than seven hours on the case. The team wrapped up its clean-up efforts at approximately 5 a.m. on May 11.
The police chief said he was appreciative of the agencies who participated in the incident. He explained that it takes quite a few people and cooperation between agencies to execute the type of operation that took place last week.
Earlier this month at a city council meeting, Zamantakis reported to councilmembers and city residents that the department was seeing an increase in drug-related investigations and arrests. He explained that as Helper police crack down on the drug problems, dealing and production operations will likely move elsewhere.
He said that the increase is a cycle he has seen before. Drug operations will move to another area. As other municipal police agencies and the sheriff's office crack down, Zamantakis said that drug operations will return to the city.
He said he didn't have an answer to stop that cycle, but was committed to cracking down on the drug problem within the city and send a message that the city was not going to put up with the production, sale or use of illegal drugs within the city.