As you can read in today’s Daily Mail, federal and state statistics on meth lab busts don’t really jibe.
Here’s a chart to explain what I’m talking about. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has collected data on meth lab incidents since 2004, while the state Department of Health and Human Resources only began in 2008.
According to DHHR statistics, meth lab busts have increased over the last five years. The DEA data shows a precipitous decline in meth incidents since 2004, however.
There are a few reasons for this.
- All West Virginia police agencies are required to report each meth lab bust to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
- They are not required to report those numbers to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, however, so many of those incidents go unreported to the feds.
- The DEA used to receive a significant number of meth lab reports, because state law enforcement would call the agency for funding to clean up meth labs. Anytime police would call for clean-up funding, the report would be entered into DEA databases. When the funding dried up, the calls stopped coming and data became scarce.
- The DEA statistics include lab busts, meth lab dump sites (when cookers throw their leftovers over a hillside somewhere) as well as chemical and glassware seizures (inactive meth labs).
- The DHHR statistics, meanwhile, include active and inactive meth labs but not dump sites. That could be why DEA statistics are sometimes higher than DHHR numbers.
It seems innocuous, right? The DEA doesn’t claim its meth lab statistics are comprehensive. If the data is bad, anyone looking for information about meth lab busts should just go to the DHHR.
But it’s not that simple. The DEA numbers aren’t just off, they’re way off. And they also carry the authority of the federal government, even if the agency makes clear the data might not be completely accurate.