Midtown Manhattan Is a Terrible Location for a Meth Lab

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Update 10:44 a.m. It seems like this tale of a Midtown meth bust isn't so much the stuff of Breaking Bad as it one more of those New York City nightmare neighbors. Police sources are telling NBC New York that there was nothing criminal in the Midtown Manhattan apartment everyone thought to be a meth lab. A law enforcement source said early Tuesday that the investigation found a man in the apartment was manufacturing legal bath salts. No charges were filed and police said the investigation revealed no criminality," NBC reported. 

Police invaded and evacuated two floors in a four-story apartment building in Hell's Kitchen after neighbors complained that a man was cooking meth on the third floor. The building's residents said that they'd noticed a toxic smell that burned their eyes coming from the apartment and suspected that he had hazardous chemicals inside. After a call around 6:30 p.m., in swarmed the bomb squad and a host of officers. Local media reports that their investigation "remained inconclusive late Monday night," but a 50-year-old man is being questioned in the matter.

Regardless of whether or not this guy was actually making drugs in his Hell's Kitchen apartment, one fact is resoundingly true: Midtown Manhattan is a terrible place to set up a meth lab. The main reason is illustrated in the dozens of people who were evacuated from their homes for fear of an explosion. Cooking meth is really dangerous, and cooking meth in a densely populated urban area is even more dangerous. As an A&E documentary on the drug explains, "Some of the ingredients to make meth are highly explosive -- they're the same ingredients used to make bombs." Bombs and New York City don't mix! (Irony and New York City, however, do.)

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Otherwise, setting up a drug factory so close to Times Square is profoundly stupid from a criminal's point of view. Do you know how many police officers there are patrolling Times Square and neighboring blocks on any given day? A lot of police officers are patrolling the area. After all, it's one of the most highly trafficked parts of one of the largest cities in the world. It would appear that the Meth Man on 54th Street is even dumber, since his apartment is located just two blocks from the NYPD's Midtown North precinct stationhouse, and the Times Square precinct is just a few more blocks away.

Before anybody gets too carried away criticizing the suspect in this Midtown meth lab meltdown, though, let's wait until we learn more details. It might not be a meth lab at all. Maybe he's just a agoraphobic chemistry enthusiast or dangerously vigilant clean freak. If it is true, it'll be the most dramatic meth-related episode since police found a meth lab in a posh penthouse overlooking the United Nations -- which, by the way, is also a very stupid place to set up a meth lab.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.