By Echo Menges
The number of “known about” anhydrous ammonia thefts in Knox County is way, way up in 2012.
According to a representative of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, so far this year there have been approximately 53 instances in which the farm chemical used as an ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine has been reported stolen. That’s more anhydrous thefts in Knox County than there were in 2010 and 2011 combined. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office investigated 31 anhydrous thefts in 2010 and 18 anhydrous thefts in 2011.
“Sometimes it goes for a while with nothing and then all of a sudden we have a rash of it,” said Knox County Sheriff Mike Kite. According to Kite a recent rash of anhydrous thefts has occurred in the county though no arrests have been made by the KCSO for anhydrous theft in 2012. According to the Sheriff there is no way of telling if the same person or persons are responsible for the many thefts reported this year or if a lot of different people are stealing the chemical from Knox County.
“It’s being stolen from different places around the county. Mainly the anhydrous coops but sometimes they hit the farmers too,” said Kite. “They’re trespassing on people’s property and turning on the valves after they put a device up to a liquid port. They use old propane bottles, air tanks and coolers [to hold the stolen anhydrous]. Stealing anhydrous is dangerous because it seeks moisture and if it gets on you it will seek the moisture on our body and burn you.”
Meth manufacturing is extremely dangerous. When large enough amounts are being made the chemical concoction is extremely explosive and endangers not only the makers of the material, but the innocent bystanders near the manufacturing location.
It is relatively easy to tell if a propane tank has been used to store anhydrous because it is common for the copper valves to turn green when they are exposed to the chemical. If other types of containers are carrying anhydrous the rims and edges of those containers are commonly frosty because anhydrous is stored at very low temperatures. The chemical can also be identified by its very strong chemical smell.
If you witness suspicious activity near an anhydrous ammonia tank or suspect anhydrous to be present in the air do not ever try to investigate on your own. Always clear out of the area and report the situation to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office or any local law enforcement official. Over exposure to anhydrous can be fatal.