Cooking Meth in an RV Does Not Make You Walter White

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Dec. 6 2013 3:26 PM

Cooking Meth in an RV Does Not Make You Walter White

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Alleged crimes: Manufacturing methamphetamine, tampering with evidence.

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Fatal mistake: Returning to the scene of the crime, and getting stuck there.

The circumstances: The television show Breaking Bad, for all its merits, was never particularly realistic when it came to the vicissitudes of the American meth trade. For example, people who start out cooking meth in an RV will not usually end up with millions of dollars and an international reputation for criminal brilliance. In real life, RV meth cooks are much more likely to end up driving that RV into a tight spot and getting stuck there, as deputies with search warrants look on in disbelief.

According to WOUB.org, that’s what happened to three dumb criminals in Shade, Ohio, last week. The Athens County Narcotics Enforcement Team had obtained a warrant to search an RV they believed was being used as a meth lab. When the deputies arrived at the place where the vehicle was stored, they learned that, just hours earlier, the suspected meth cooks had driven away, one step ahead of the law. The deputies went ahead and searched the property anyway, and while they were doing so, what should come tooling down the road but the missing RV, captained by the alleged meth cooks in question, who quickly realized they had made a very serious mistake by returning so soon. That mistake was compounded when, according to WOUB.org, “The driver of the RV saw the cruisers and attempted to turn around to leave the area, but got stuck.”

The driver got stuck. Come on now. If you’re operating a rolling meth lab, there’s only one thing you really need to worry about: Make sure it doesn’t ever get stuck. Stay away from narrow alleys. Avoid muddy roads. Don’t drive it into places where you won’t be able to turn around. Smart criminals like Walter White know these things. Dumb criminals forget them, and end up getting stuck—stuck in jail, that is.

How they could have been a lot smarter: Cooked their meth in a state-of-the-art underground superlab.

How they could have been a little smarter: Spent $50 on a police scanner.

How they could have been a little dumber: Set up shop in a vehicle that’s even more prone to getting stuck than an RV, like an ark. The turning radius is even less tight on an ark.

How they could have been a lot dumber: Somehow gotten stuck in a drug-free school zone, thus subjecting themselves to tens of additional years in prison.

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): Were these guys dumb, or just unlucky? Despite the premise of this column, I’m leaning toward the unlucky side of the ledger. It’s not really their fault that they allegedly came back to Meth HQ at the absolute worst possible moment to do so. Still, before you start manufacturing drugs in an RV, you ought to learn how to drive it. 3 out of 10 for Casteel, Storms, and Storms.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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