Man Charged With Starting Apartment Fire In Meth Lab

Posted at 11:33 AM, Jan 10, 2013

PORTAGE, Mich. — One man is in jail in connection to a fire that forced more than 40 people from their home.

Police arrested John Shank on unrelated charges.

The fire happened at the Briargate Apartments in Portage on January 3. Detectives say it started in a meth lab.

Just days after starting a new traffic safety program, Portage police say the program has already helped track down one person in connection with a meth lab fire at the Briargate Apartments.

“It was scary,” said David Anderson said of the fire. He lives at Briargate Apartments, a place he has called home for more than nine years. “It’s a great apartment. Very conveniently located.”

But, the recent fire has him worried about overall crime in the area. “Right away, I had a hunch that drugs were involved,” said Anderson.

The fire also destroyed other units, forcing 43 people from their homes. FOX 17 checked with Portage police about meth crimes the past few years. Officers reported 43 crimes involving meth in 2010, 27 meth crimes in 2011, and 41 in 2012.

Portage police, looking to curb crime, now have more money to do it.  A $50,000 grant helped create the Data Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety, or DDACTS. The money puts officers on the street, working overtime, in higher crime areas.

“The idea with this grant is you can influence crime through traffic stops,” said Officer Kyle Doster, Crime Prevention Officer in Portage.

South Westnedge Avenue is the main drag, filled with lots of shopping and restaurants. Officers are concentrating their efforts there now.

“When you displace crime, they’re forced to go somewhere else,” said Officer Doster. “They’re not as comfortable, they can slip up. The more they slip up, the more likely they are to be arrested.”

Portage police just happened to be working that area when they stopped 43-year-old John Shank on previous meth charges. They arrested Shank in connection with the meth lab fire at Briargate Apartments.

The DDACT program is not about writing traffic tickets, it is about influencing crime. Portage police will take a look at their data to see how it is going and so far, it has produced an important result.

Detectives expect more people to face charges related to this fire.