Even though the number of meth labs recovered by Tulsa police is down more than 65 percent from two years ago, methamphetamine has contributed to at least 11 homicides this year, including two quadruple slayings.
During a January raid, narcotics officers found "trafficking amounts" of methamphetamine at a home in the 1300 block of North New Haven Avenue, Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker said. Four people Charlie Dean Dake Jr., 34; Melissa Lynn Dake, 35; Glenda Ellen Harper, 54; and Tammy Brunson, 46 were fatally shot at the residence last Saturday.
Detectives have yet to identify any suspects in the killings but "are working on the premise" that meth was involved, Walker said.
"That's the only thing we can think of that they were involved in that would lead to this carnage," he said.
Investigators do not think meth was being manufactured in the home.
Two of the victims in a January quadruple homicide at the Fairmont Terrace apartment complex near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue were suspected of dealing drugs, including meth, police said previously. Walker specified that the amount of drugs likely involved in those deaths was much smaller than in the case of the victims on New Haven Avenue.
Last weekend's slayings came on the heels of the beating death of 34-year-old Quinton Shaver, which unveiled a "cult-like atmosphere" of violence, kidnapping and heavy meth use, police said.
Shaver's body was discovered after investigators received a tip about his death on the evening of Nov. 10, but he might have been killed the previous day, they said. George Emile July and Angel Marie Proctor were charged with Shaver's killing and several other felony counts on Tuesday.
"Shaver may be the tip of an iceberg," Walker said.
In addition to police finding meth addicts living in squalor, users are "willing to be beaten; they're willing to move from place to place; they're willing to give up their kids" for the drug, which is creating the next generation of addicts, he said.
The shooting deaths of Ronnie Stanley on Jan. 4 and Donald Treat on May 5 were also motivated by meth, according to investigators.
"Something's going on. There is an increase in violence at this moment," Walker said.
He speculated that violence is the way meth suppliers are "taking care of" unpaid debts and turf disputes.
Tulsa police saw a peak of 429 meth labs in the city in 2011, up from a recent low of 20 in 2007.
After legislation passed further restricting access to pseudoephedrine a key ingredient for meth production in July 2012, the number fell to 295 last year. Officers have found 143 so far this year.
"The more you control pseudoephedrine, the (fewer) meth labs you're going to have," Cpl. Mike Griffin said. "If you (revert) pseudoephedrine back to a Schedule III drug like it once was, they would go down even further, so it's really simple."
The number of meth labs found in Tulsa is significantly lower than the 429 found in 2011, "but it's still way up from 20," Griffin said.
He emphasized that the decreased number of meth labs does not indicate any reduction in meth use.
"It depends on whether or not you want to look at it from the fact that we still have a whole lot of people in a risky, illegal business in town," he said, referring to meth use. "Or do we want to say, 'Hey, (the number of meth labs found) is down from where it was' ?"
"Meth itself doesn't start apartment fires or kill little babies; meth labs do."
The Tulsa ZIP code with the most meth labs found is 74110, the area bounded by Interstate 244 and 46th Street North, and from Utica to Harvard avenues. Eighty labs were found in the area in 2011, 61 in 2012 and 24 so far this year.
The site of the New Haven homicides is in a neighboring ZIP code (74115), which has the second-highest number of labs in the city this year with 17. The ZIP code that includes Fairmont Terrace 74105 ranks fifth.
Fires have occurred at eight meth lab sites this year. None of them has been fatal, according to Police Department data.
Children were found at four meth lab sites.
Amanda Bland 918-581-8413