Phelps County tied for ninth place out of all the counties in Missouri for the number of methamphetamine incidents that occurred in 2012, according to statistics released last month.

There were a total of 48 meth incidents reported in Phelps County last year, which was the same amount reported in Marion County in northeast Missouri.

All law enforcement agencies in the state are required to report the seizure of meth labs to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s (MSHP) Division of Drug and Crime Control, which then enters Missouri’s seizures into the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System.

Meth incidents entered into the system are classified in one of three ways: operational laboratories, chemical/equipment/glassware seizures, and dumpsites.

The 2012 figure shows a continued increase in the number of reported meth lab seizures in Phelps County.

In 2011, there were 39 meth incidents in Phelps County, which is up from 2010, when 35 were reported. In 2009, there were 11, and in 2008, there were three in Phelps County, according to statistics from the MSHP.

Neighboring Crawford County had 51 reports last year, down from 54 in 2011. There were 37 reported meth lab incidents in Crawford County in 2010, 26 reports in 2009, and 24 in 2008.

Phelps County Sheriff Rick Lisenbe attributes the increase to the fact that his department, the Rolla Police Department and South Central Drug Task Force has “become so much more aggressive” going after meth labs in the county.

“We have the manpower and funds to expend toward it,” Lisenbe said, noting that the law enforcement agencies are not only going after the dealers, but the manufacturers as well.

“I would love to see those numbers start going down,” Lisenbe said. He noted law enforcement groups also are dealing with heroin and synthetic drug problems in Phelps County.

While Phelps County was tied for ninth in 2012, the number of reports in this county was well below Jefferson County, which had the most reported meth labs in the state at 346.

Other top counties in the state for 2012 included St. Charles County with 156, Franklin County with 102 and Greene County with 94. (See sidebar for other top counties.)

There were 1,985 meth lab incidents reported across the state last year, down from 2,096 reports in 2011. There were 1,960 reported meth lab incidents in Missouri in 2010 and 1,774 reports in 2009. There were 1,487 meth incident reports in 2008 across the state.

Lisenbe said he wants the sheriff’s and police department as well as the task force to “just keep pressure” on those involved in the manufacturing and distribution of meth.

“We don’t want to let ourselves get to that point,” he said of the counties with more meth lab seizures in the state.

With all area law enforcement agencies working together, Lisenbe said, “We can keep those numbers down and avoid them from escalating out of control. It (48) is way more than I want and I would like to see us cut that in half.”

While other communities and counties in Missouri have passed laws requiring prescriptions to buy medicine containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient used to make meth, Lisenbe said such laws hurt people who use the medicine for legitimate reasons because they have to pay for a doctor’s visit and prescription in those areas.