MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 13, 2013

Hotels need not tell of past meth cooking

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Authorities say that although landlords are legally required to say whether methamphetamine may have been cooked in a house or apartment, hotel keepers bear no such burden.

Chemicals left after meth is cooked are extremely dangerous, law enforcers say. And a residence where meth has been cooked can stay contaminated for more than a decade.

Although Oklahoma has no law that a residence must be cleaned up after meth is believed to have been cooked there, it does have one that says potential residents must be told.

But that law affects only homes and apartments, leaving the question: What about hotel and motel rooms?

“There are lots of those hotels that are like, $30 or $40 per night, or whatever,” said Matt Burleson of the Muskogee Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit. “And we do find a lot of meth cooks in places like that.”

Burleson said the cooks might be awake for two or three straight days, high on the effects of meth, cooking through the night.

“When they leave, the room is still contaminated,” he said. “The microwave is always used, maybe the refrigerator.”

A state law passed in 2010 mandates that landlords must disclose to potential tenants that meth has been cooked in the residence in question. That bill doesn’t go as far as some would like, but it’s a start, said state Rep. Seneca Scott, the author of the law.

But no such law exists for hotels. Lt. Andy Simmons of the police SIU said a meth cook could be in the hotel one day and a family could be in that room the next.

Sand Springs has an ordinance that requires a property owner who believes meth has been cooked in the property to report it to police and have the property cleaned by an “experienced contractor” before it can be used again as a residence.

The ordinance also applies to hotel rooms, Sand Springs Assistant Police Chief Mike Carter said.

“It applies to any structure that houses people,” he said. “It’s a great example. You could have a family that maybe has a fire, for instance, and needs to move into a $30-a-night hotel. Well, it’s not right for them to move into a place that had meth cooked in it the day before. It’s so dangerous.”

Burleson sifted through photographs of hotel sites where Muskogee police have found meth. There are photos of bathrooms with shake-and-bake bottles in the trash can. Photos of closets containing plates covered in meth. Photos of microwave ovens full of remnants of methamphetamine cooking.

“All that stuff is contaminated now,” Burleson said.

At least four Oklahoma towns — Cleveland, Sand Springs, Wilburton and Mannford — have ordinances mandating professional cleanup of meth sites. Muskogee City Attorney Roy Tucker said Muskogee has no such ordinance, but he said he would take a look at those towns’ rules to see whether a similar ordinance was feasible for Muskogee.

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.