Journal of Drug Issues L. Edward Wells and Ralph A. Weisheit 2012 42: 178
Methamphetamine laboratories have been a widely variable problem across the United States, very problematic in some communities but not at all in others. This study analyzes the variation in methamphetamine labs using demographic and geographic information on 17,720 seized laboratories. The analysis found that traditional community-level factors representing economic disadvantage, social disorganization, and civic community theories demonstrated little power to predict the presence of methamphetamine laboratories, although they were useful in predicting other types of crime. A single spatial lag variable measuring a county’s geographic proximity to other counties with drug laboratory seizures accounted for almost half of the variance in meth lab prevalence and contributed substantially to the explained variance in index crime arrests and drug arrests. The findings demonstrate the utility of spatial lag variables in assessing proximity effects in explaining crime patterns, while demonstrating that fully explaining different forms of crime may require different theoretical models.