Drug Arrest Rate in Dover Schools 

Drug Arrest Rate in Dover Schools 
Posted by FoM on June 03, 2000 at 09:00:13 PT
By James A. Kimble & Michael Gillis
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat
Although the number of arrests for drug offenses at Dover High School has dropped — from 22 last school year to 12 so far this year — the rate is still higher than figures for Seacoast schools of similar size.In Dover, school officials and police contend the presence of a resource officer and additional administration have boosted drug enforcement at the school.
But arrests do not always highlight what is happening at area schools and may offer only a glimpse of what youths are experimenting with outside of school.According to the Teen Assessment Program survey in which more than 1,600 middle and high school students in Dover recently answered questions about drugs, alcohol, sex and a variety of social and family issues, 47 percent of the high school students admitted to using marijuana.This figure is equal to the national average, but lower than the state average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.However, 27 percent of the students said they use marijuana at least once a month, which is higher than the national average of 26 percent. Seventeen percent of high school students who took the survey said they use marijuana at least once a week. The survey was sponsored by the Dover Coalition for Youth.The state Department of Education conducted a youth risk behavior survey last spring at 54 public high schools in New Hampshire. The survey revealed, among other things, that 30.5 percent of the students polled had been offered illegal drugs on school property during the past year.The drug of choice for high school students is clearly marijuana. Almost one-half of the students surveyed admitted they have used the drug at least once. About 30 percent said they had used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days and almost 6 percent said they used the drug on school property during that same period.School officials and police say drugs become easier to detect once a rapport is fostered with students.At Spaulding High School in Rochester, where Detective Stacy Gilman has been posted as a resource officer for two years, there have been only three drug-related arrests this year, a significant drop from the 11 last year, Gilman said."A lot of the credit for the reason we don’t have a problem is the students," he said. "They’ve said, ‘We don’t want it here.’ They also know if it comes here, we’re going to hear about it. It’s common knowledge."Like at other schools, students caught at Spaulding High School with drugs are suspended.In Portsmouth, Detective Kevin Semprini recalled making "three to four" arrests since school began in September, noting he hears about drugs more than he sees them."I’m hearing about acid, also Ecstasy. But I think you’re going to hear that from any department you talk to," he said.Semprini said he also watches for GHB and ketamine, both known as widely popular party drugs among teens. "I always hear a lot of information that it’s pretty prevalent. There’s probably some dealing in school in some areas, but it’s not really as popular as it once was."Aside from fewer drug-related incidents at Portsmouth High School, Semprini said he has also noticed much less violence at the school. "I’ve noticed a dramatic change. We’re getting there before it gets physical."A police presence at the high school is likely forcing students to think twice, or at least be more secretive about their involvement with drugs, Semprini said.At the beginning of the school year, Semprini arrested a student who possessed psychedelic mushrooms. The remaining few cases involved marijuana. Last year’s numbers were not that different. There were about 10 drug arrests at the school."The numbers really aren’t all that high," said Semprini, who has been the school’s resource officer for three years. "...We’ve had some concerns and some issues with students and at that point the school searches their belongings."Some students were sent home this year after administrators were concerned they brought drugs into the school, he said."We also have certain areas that we’re concerned about — actually a few areas," Semprini said. These are places where students can either deal drugs or get high on or near school property because they are out of the view of teachers and administrators.In Durham, a resource officer splits his time between Oyster River Middle School and Oyster River High School. To date, he has not made any drug-related arrests."I haven’t seen any," said Sgt. Ed Levesque. "What I’ve heard about (the most) is alcohol ... marijuana is the next."Durham Police Chief David Kurz said it is not enforcement that is keeping the drug-arrest rate low at Oyster River High School as much as it is the town’s profile. Durham is a town of 9,000 residents who are relatively affluent and very involved in their children’s daily activities in school, he said."Obviously, we’re not exempt," Kurz said. "Do I think we have heroin or cocaine issues? I do not."However, Kurz did acknowledge that outside of the high school, the town has seen Ecstasy, LSD and crystal meth.With the University of New Hampshire in the school’s back yard, drugs are not something they tackle alone."The investigations we’re doing are in conjunction with the attorney general’s Drug Task Force," Kurz said. "But, again, a lot has to do with the community profile. We’re not facing the same social issues that other communities do."Levesque’s comments highlight Oyster River students’ responses to the Teen Assessment Project survey, which middle and high school students in that district took in February 1997.Eight percent of all middle school students and 33 percent of all high school students in the Oyster River School District said they had abused alcohol (consumed five or drinks at a time) at least once in the previous month. Among those high school students, 46 percent of the seniors reported abusive drinking in the previous month.Twenty-six percent of the Oyster River youths surveyed said they had used marijuana at least once, while 6 percent reported weekly marijuana use — 1 percent were middle school students and 9 percent were high school students.Resource officer Steve Baressi has been posted at Somersworth High School since September. During that time he has made only a "handful" of arrests on drug charges, he said, which he later defined as a "few." Baressi said exact figures would not be tabulated until the end of the year."It does occur in Somersworth," he said. "The problem is everywhere."However, Baressi said if a resource officer is doing his job, arrests should increase the first year as enforcement escalates, then diminish once students get the message."It should balance out like a scale," he said.Like other communities, that trend is evident in Dover, where arrests are almost half of what they were last year.Tomorrow in Part 5: Parents and community need to come together to combat drug problems.  Friday, June 2, 2000 © 2000 Geo. J. Foster Co. Previous Stories:Dover School Board Chairman Wants to Bring in Dogs Do High School Students Get Their Drugs? Teens Say Drugs Are Easily Obtainable 4Ediror's Note: This is the fourth part of a five-part series on drug use by Dover High School students. A recent survey showed that Dover teens are taking drugs at a rate slightly higher than the national average. This series talks about the problem and suggested solutions.
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