WASILLA - The Matanuska-Susitna area is the methamphetamine capital of Alaska, according to Alaska State Troopers.
In 2003, authorities uncovered nine meth labs in the area. Last year, the number increased to 42, said Kyle Young, an investigator with the troopers who works with the Mat-Su narcotics team.
Officials with the Office of Children's Services in Wasilla said the problem affects children. The office receives about 40 calls a month from people reporting abuse or neglect involving some aspect of the highly addictive drug.
In late February, the Mat-Su narcotics unit arrested a couple at their Willow home. Michelle Motta said for years she tried to warn authorities that her three young nieces lived in the midst of a methamphetamine operation run by their parents, Phillip Dean and Laura Jackson.
Alaska State Troopers reported finding a "large active meth lab" in a detached garage shop. The house was a frigid mess, with piles of dirty dishes, clothes everywhere and frozen pipes, investigators said.
Through a hatch in the shop floor, the team found an underground room with a meth lab in one corner, as well as old marijuana root balls and lights from a past pot-growing operation.
An investigator said the team didn't find the children at home but saw signs of them there. Motta said the girls - ages 14, 8 and 6 - at times slept in the garage with the lab.