Illinois meth address database to go public, but not Missouri's
Dec 22, 2008 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Illinois officials are planning one of the nation's most comprehensive Internet databases to list potentially toxic homes once raided as methamphetamine labs.
But no such plans are in place for Missouri -- the state that has long led in the number of raids for the illegal drug.
Making meth produces byproducts that 18 states consider so dangerous that they demand that owners clean homes found with trace amounts of residue. Missouri and Illinois not only lack standards, but a Post-Dispatch investigation found that most residents moving into former meth labs in either state are never told of their homes' histories.
In response to the newspaper's findings, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office finalized plans this month with the Illinois Health Department and Illinois State Police to launch an online database of addresses. It will list places where police found meth labs dating to 2001.
"When you have public safety at issue, you have to be proactive, and giving people this information is critically important," said Cara Smith, Madigan's deputy chief of staff.
The database, which will launch early next year, will include the address, date of the raid, county and city. Users can search the database by county and by city.
Those without access to computers can call the Health Department to verify whether an address appears on the site.
Since 2001, about three-fourths of the state's police agencies have voluntarily sent reports about meth raids to the Health Department.
Those addresses along with the state's existing meth offender registry and recommended meth lab cleanup guidelines will be posted on the site, making it one of the most comprehensive in the nation, compared with databases in other states, said Illinois State Police Sgt. Eric Hall.
"We truly understand this is a consumer issue, and we're putting our best foot forward to make sure that consumers are aware of potential hazards that may be in these homes," Hall said.
He said the database will be updated weekly or monthly, and he is researching ways to give residents more information about what police found at a given address if it appears on the registry.
But Missouri residents will have no such tools.
The Missouri Highway Patrol funnels meth lab reports from across the state to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which publishes only some of the addresses raided since 2006 online.
The Highway Patrol won't release the full list to the public. Sgt. Steven Frisbie said state law forbids it because some cases may be pending and it would be too costly to ask each police department which ones are still under investigation.
"I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but the state's Sunshine Act prevents us from doing it," Frisbie said.
For now, Missouri residents living in Jefferson County are the only ones who can find whether their home was ever raided for meth.
The Sheriff's Department has posted addresses dating to 2006, although some still under investigation have been withheld.
"We don't want anyone to come in and purchase a home without prior knowledge that there could be possibly be contamination in that residence," Sheriff Oliver "Glenn" Boyer said.
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