Locomotives often pull tanker cars through South Mississippi that are filled with anhydrous ammonia. Once the tankers are dropped off at area businesses, Tony Best says they become targets for crystal meth manufacturers.
"This thing is in near epidemic proportions up and down the coast," Best said.
Best is the executive director of Mississippi Security Police. Some of his Jackson County clients include industries that use the railroad tracks to import the ammonia product.
"We have actually caught people with cylinder bottles, hoses and those types of things that were in an effort to break into the tank car," he said.
Experts say anhydrous ammonia is the only component in crystal meth that you can't buy at stores. According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, more people were arrested last year on meth amphetamine charges than for any other drug.
Tony Best said that combination is why steps have been taken to protect businesses from anhydrous ammonia thieves. Security cameras, lights and extra patrols now cover many tanker storage facilities.
"You know, you have to combat the enemy that you're faced with," said Best. "And right now, that's meth amphetamine."
The fight against this particular enemy is being waged by chemical plants, security guards and police.
"We have better communications now between security and police than we've ever had before," said Best. "We share information with each other, because it's going to take all of us together to combat this thing."
Statistically, meth amphetamine is fast becoming the drug of choice for drug uses. Last year, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics worked nearly 3,000 drug cases. Agents say 23% of those cases involved meth amphetamines. Investigators say that's why thieves are breaking into anhydrous ammonia tanks.