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SLO police raid downtown meth lab

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A San Luis Obispo man and his girlfriend are currently in jail on drug and child cruelty charges after law enforcement discovered a suspected methamphetamine lab in the couple's San Luis Obispo home.

San Luis Obispo police say they went to the Buchon Street home after neighbors complained of a "strong chemical smell." After entering the home, officers allegedly found items consistent with a meth lab - a glass cooking vessel, cooling tubes, containers of chemicals - in a bathroom.

Police evacuated the home and called in the county's narcotics task force. Several other nearby homes were also evacuated for several hours. After arresting Browne and Cooke, Browne's 2-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter - who were found in Browne's car - were turned over to the county's Child Protective Services.

Police say it was the dangerous nature of meth-production chemicals - many are explosive, or carcinogenic, or cause short-term and permanent brain damage and immune- and respiratory-system problems - that allowed them to charge the couple with child cruelty.

While state law enforcement agencies estimate that California contains 80 percent of the nation's meth labs, production facilities in San Luis Obispo are rare. In fact, Capt. Dan Blanke with SLOPD couldn't remember the last time his department had found one.

Blanke described the alleged lab on Buchon as a "very small operation," and estimated that it was probably only producing enough meth for one or two people.

-Abraham Hyatt

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