When police served a search warrant at 314 E. Airline Road, they found the methamphetamine they were looking for, but officers also discovered two little girls exposed to the dangers of the drug.
Four suspects -- two of them the mothers of the girls -- were arrested on drug charges Friday, Jan. 13. Child Protective Services took custody of the children, a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old.
"Through information at the scene, we believe the children had been exposed to the remnants of methamphetamine -- the smoke and contaminated packaging," said Commander Don Engler of the Payson Police Department. "At that point, we began a child abuse investigation and are being assisted by CPS."
Arrested were Payson residents: Cynthia Mendoza, 37; Jennifer Blunk, 26; Christina Hendricks, 20; and Steven Scott, 34.
All four suspects were charged with possession of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Mendoza was also charged with false reporting to a law enforcement agency after providing officers with a fictitious name.
Engler said alert residents helped officers do their job.
"We received citizen information regarding this location," he said. "That's why it's so important that we get input from the public when they see situations like this where they believe drugs are being sold."
Watch your neighborhood
"As people live in a neighborhood and get used to the norm of the neighborhood, when something seems out of the ordinary, or it doesn't seem right, then normally the citizens are correct," Engler said. "Out of almost every warrant we've written that was successful in securing drugs and contraband, citizen input was important to the case."
Engler said there are several telltale signs when drugs are being sold out of a home.
"The biggest thing is a high volume of traffic. People are coming and going -- often staying just a few minutes and then leaving again," he said.
"Occasionally, we see a blatant exposure of the drugs themselves -- people going into the residence with cash in hand and coming out with packages."
Engler said it saddens him when parents become addicted to methamphetamine because their children often pay a terrible price.
"It's just a real concern because the cycle continues," he said. "When you're a law enforcement officer in a community as small as ours, you see what happens to these children. The children often emulate the behavior they've seen."
"It's sad because they remain in that same cycle and, unfortunately, we end up dealing with the next generation of users. It's a terrible drug."
If you suspect illegal drug activity is happening in your neighborhood, call Payson police at (928) 474-5177, or call the Gila County Narcotics Task Force at (928) 474-0728. You can also contact the Meth Task Force Hotline at (800) STOP-METH.