After reporting what he believed to be evidence of a potential crime to the police, a man who believed himself to be doing a good deed was ultimately punished for his actions.
When Iowa resident Paul Valin was kayaking in the Des Moines river in January 2012, he came across a mysterious backpack.
“When I see something in the river that doesn’t belong there, I’ll pick it up, to recycle it or do something with it," Valin told the Iowa Watchdog. "I figured I’d take [the backpack] home, see if it had any ID and get in touch with whoever lost it."
When Valin finally opened the backpack, however, he found various contraptions — including plastic bottles and rubber tubing — that led him to believe the contents could be used to create meth. Valin immediately reported the backpack to the police, who confiscated the evidence.
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Despite his good deed, Valin was subsequently punished by the federal government. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Clandestine Laboratory Register (NCLR) currently lists Valin’s home address as a drug laboratory location.
According to the DEA's site, the NCLR “contains addresses of some locations where law enforcement agencies reported they found chemicals or other items that indicated the presence of either clandestine drug laboratories or dumpsites.” The site was set up as a public service to demonstrate to individuals the locations of various drug-making laboratories, which can often be found in residential neighborhoods.
Although Valin was not charged criminally for his possession of the backpack, his address is forced to show up on the register because, in accordance with the DEA’s qualifications, hazardous drug-making materials were found there. Valin’s only mistake was bringing the backpack home.
Valin has been fighting the agency in order to have his address removed from the list, but to no avail. Instead, he’s been stuck in a complex web of bureaucratic red tape. Whenever he contacts one agency, it forwards him to another. Hopefully, he'll be able to rectify the situation soon and be celebrated for his good deed rather than punished for it.