Police discuss DeKalb drug trends

By Vickie Snow

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series of articles dealing with drug (including alcohol) abuse trends in the area. This article discusses the issue from the law enforcement perspective.

Based on the statements of local law enforcers, whether drug abuse in the local area is on a rise or decline is a matter of opinion.

Sergeant Ron Pearson of the City of DeKalb Police Department, 222 S. Fourth Street, said the number of arrests for driving under the influence are above average so far this year. Over the past five years, about 100 DUI arrests have been made annually, he said.

However, people seem to be getting more educated about the dangers of alcohol, Pearson said, noting that he sees more carpooling, walking and designated drivers after the local bars close. The numbers of nonalcoholic drug arrests are hard to keep track of, he said.

A local state trooper, who requested anonymity, said “alcohol violations haven’t increased, but unfortunately they haven’t decreased.”

One thing that has changed is the fact that DUI arrests are usually accompanied by other drugs like marijuana and cocaine, she said, adding that the problem occurs with anyone over the legal drinking age.

When the problem of drug abuse is with young people, she said parents are part of the problem.

“Parents don’t pay attention to what their kids do in their spare time,” she said.

Additionally, parents are often defensive when notified that their child has been arrested for a drug-related offense. “Instead of asking if he is okay, they immediately ask why he was picked up and how his rights were violated,” she said.

In addition to the lack of parental supervision and interest, she attributes the problem to peer pressure. Kids who do not necessarily enjoy drinking do it to be part of a group, she said.

Another local law enforcement official agrees that parents are partly to blame for kids abusing drugs.

Jim Anderson, a juvenile officer with the City of DeKalb Police Department, said “kids need a family structure to fall back on.” Young kids are often left unsupervised after school before the parents arrive at home, he said.

Additionally, family involvement is often absent at programs designed to help offenders. “A lot of parents care but don’t try to help,” Anderson said.

“Getting parents to participate is a lot easier said than done,” and in some cases a court order is almost needed, he said.

But all the blame does not fall on the shoulders of the parents. Anderson, who believes the problem is getting worse, said “everybody has failed,” adding that everyone from policemen to social workers need to take a look at what they have been doing to help diminish drug abuse.

One of the answers to solving the problem is prevention, Anderson said. The key is to start teaching kids early about the effects of drugs.

“The earlier the better,” he said. “Sixth grade seems to be a turning point where kids stop smiling at officers and start ‘giving them the bird.'”

Although the police department’s efforts “are finally getting the point across that drunk driving is not the cool thing to do,” Anderson said he sees kids as young as 12 years old with alcohol-related offenses. On the other hand, “We don’t see many drug abusers,” he said. “They’re out there, but they don’t get caught.”

Counseling is another area, but a more difficult one than prevention, to help lessen the problem. “All the counseling in the world isn’t going to help until they want to change,” Anderson said.

“It usually takes a big shock of some kind,” like a close friend or relative dying from a drug-related event, to pressure the individual into seeking counseling, he said.

Anderson’s job as a juvenile officer involves talking with young offenders and sometimes referring them to the DeKalb County Youth Service Bureau, 330 Grove Street in DeKalb, or the Ben Gordon Community Mental Health Center, 12 Health Services Drive in DeKalb.

From there, some kids are referred to one of two treatment centers—Rosecrance Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse, 1505 N. Alpine Road in Rockford, or Oakwood Hospital, 5510 E. State Street in Rockford. For these inpatient centers, however, insurance money runs out before the problem is solved and “the kid is back on the street,” Anderson said.

Such treatment can add up to $25,000 in less than a year, he said.

While local law enforcers have varied opinions on the trends of drug abuse, 1988-89 arrest statistics for the City of DeKalb Police Department showed the problem worsening.

For example, in 1989 there were 13 adult arrests for cannabis control violations while there were five in 1988, according to the department’s 1989 annual report. Liquor control violations rose from 140 adult arrests in 1988 to 259 in 1989.

The North Central Narcotics Task Force, made up of five DeKalb City Police agencies, was labeled as “by far the most effective way of combating drug trafficking in (the) area,” the report stated. In 1989, during its first year of operation, the task force seized over $30,000 in cash, initiated 83 drug-related investigations and seized almost 500,000 grams of illegal drugs (cannabis, cocaine, LSD, heroin and hallucinogens), the report stated.