O.C. Teen Drug Arrests Soar; Treatment Lags 

O.C. Teen Drug Arrests Soar; Treatment Lags 
Posted by FoM on September 11, 2000 at 06:53:36 PT
By Jack Leonard, Times Staff Writer
Source: Los Angeles Times
Law enforcement: Bookings climb 280% in a decade, but agencies are helping fewer minors than five years ago.   "Zero tolerance" drug policies aimed at young offenders have fueled a massive rise in juvenile drug arrests, prompting some judges, police officers and others to question whether enough is being done to help teens break the habit. Over the last decade, the number of Orange County minors arrested on drug offenses leaped 280% while the juvenile population rose by just 16%, according to a Times analysis. 
 The arrest rate far outpaced Los Angeles County and the rest of the state. Despite the rise, Orange County's Health Care Agency is actually treating roughly half as many teens for drug addiction as it did five years ago. And those who do receive public counseling must sometimes wait as long as four months, fueling concern that many youths are not getting the help they need.   "It's disgraceful," Superior Court Judge Wendy Lindley said. "We have insufficient resources to treat our children in this county."   The situation has prompted Lindley and other judges to call for expansion of juvenile court programs that offer treatment instead of punishment. And police departments, which for years took a "get-tough" approach toward teen drug users, are also experimenting with intervention programs that stress getting off drugs rather than doing time.   "I don't think that more aggressive enforcement is going to work all by itself," said Sheriff's Sgt. Roger Neumeister, a former narcotics investigator now supervising a drug diversion program for juveniles in South County. "Everyone's starting to realize that there is a revolving door out there. You have to attack the addiction before it gets too far."   Under the South County program, launched earlier this year by Sheriff Mike Carona, deputies who once sent arrestees to juvenile court now send them to social workers. First-time offenders are given the option of wiping their records clean if they and their parents complete lengthy sessions that focus on the dangers of drugs and why juveniles use them.   The approach appealed to Kelly, an 18-year-old addict from Laguna Niguel who was using methamphetamine daily when a deputy arrested her in January. The arrest, she said, did little to halt her habit.   "It didn't affect me at all," said Kelly, who asked that her last name not be used. "The next day I snuck out of my house and went to my friends for more."   But social workers with the program forced her to examine the toll that drug use had taken on both herself and her family, she said, and eventually helped her resolve to fight her addiction. Since starting to meet regularly with counselors, Kelly said she has graduated from school and hopes to attend college.   "They've saved my life," she said. "I know the way that I was going that I would be dead shortly . . . that I didn't care at all."   More Teens Willing to Investigate Drugs:   The spike in juvenile drug arrests in Orange County--from 486 in 1990 to 1,849 last year--comes despite a drop in serious crime among youths. Law enforcement officials are surprised by the contradiction and attribute the jump in drug arrests to two factors: an upswing in drug use and more aggressive policing.   From house parties to parks where teens hang out, patrol officers say they are seeing far more youngsters than ever using illicit drugs. Many officers said that teenagers seem more willing to experiment with drugs--in particular, with marijuana--making a rise in arrests inevitable.   "There's definitely an increase," Neumeister said. "When we go to parties, we see it. We go to car stops, we're seeing more of it. . . . It's everywhere."   National research supports the observations. Government-sponsored surveys show that marijuana use in particular rose sharply during the early 1990s, before eventually leveling off. The number of 12th-graders who last year reported smoking marijuana during a one-month period was 23%--up from 14% in 1991, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse survey.   "Years ago, marijuana was considered to be something very hazardous," said Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez, who has worked with adolescents in schools and police programs for more than 20 years. "Now it is considered to be the same as alcohol by kids."   But police say increased drug use alone cannot account for the jump in arrests. Rather, officials point to a crackdown on minor juvenile offenses by police in recent years. In targeting offenders when they are young, law enforcement officials said they hope to deter adolescents from committing more serious crimes later on.   In South County, sheriff's deputies are patrolling on bicycles so they can more easily access shopping centers, parks and other places where teens congregate. Police officers have also sought cooperation from teachers and parents. While 10 years ago the sight of a uniformed cop on campus might have caused parents alarm, today it's a source of comfort, officials said.   "Attitudes have changed," said Garden Grove Police Sgt. Dennis Ellsworth. "We used to get calls from parents asking why there was a police officer on campus. Now I get calls asking why the officer isn't there."   School officials have also adopted tougher policies that allow no leniency for students caught with drugs on campus. And teachers are more willing to report offenses to police.   The spike in youth drug arrests has placed even more pressure on an already overburdened justice system.   Judge Robert Hutson, who presides over Orange County's juvenile court, has watched with concern as the number of drug cases before him has risen. But even after the increase, he said, arrest figures fail to illuminate just how far substance abuse affects juvenile crime. In all the cases before him--from shoplifting to robbery--as many as 85% involve alcohol or drugs, he said.   "It's very alarming," said Hutson, who runs the county's only drug court for juveniles. "These treatment programs are all-important if these kids want to survive."   But in Orange County, teen treatment has become increasingly hard to find.   Responding Less as Problem Gets Worse:   Since 1995, the number of youngsters receiving publicly funded help for drug and alcohol abuse fell from 1,886 to 1,042, according to a recently published study on the condition of children in Orange County.   State health officials estimate that the county needs three times the level of treatment services currently available, according to the report, compiled by Cal State Fullerton's Center for Collaboration for Children and the Orangewood Children's Foundation.   "If you're arresting more kids because of drug . . . problems and you're decreasing treatment available to kids, you're less able to respond to the underlying problems," Sid Gardner, director of the Cal State Fullerton center, said in an interview. "We're responding less as the problem is getting worse."   County health officials attributed the treatment shortage to cuts in state funding for school drug counseling during the mid-1990s. Sandra Fair, who oversees alcohol and substance abuse services at the Orange County Health Care Agency, said adolescents can face long waiting lists to enroll in a substance abuse program.   "Obviously our goal is to provide treatment at the point where the person says they have a need. We cannot meet that goal," she said.   The problem is particularly worrisome given the increase in arrests, Fair said, adding that enforcement is unlikely by itself to halt youngsters from abusing drugs. But treatment levels are expected to increase soon, with Orange County about to receive an additional $600,000 in state funds for adolescent substance abuse treatment, she said.   At the same time, local judges are trying to examine a successful courts program in Orange used for teen drug offenders countywide.   Currently, 34 offenders are enrolled in the pilot drug court. Under the program, Judge Hutson sentences youngsters to an intense regimen of treatment. Offenders face possible incarceration if they abandon treatment or violate the court's strict curfews.   In South County, Lindley presides over a similar drug court for adults. Over the last six years, the judge said she has watched a stream of addicts pass before her, nearly all telling her their addictions began while they were teens. Sometimes it was friends who encouraged them to start; occasionally, it was mom or dad.   Lindley said the experience has prompted her to push for more court programs that can help break the cycle of addiction.   "It's our responsibility as a juvenile system to step in and give these children what they need," Lindley said. "They need treatment, and they need it early."   Teen Arrests:   The number of juvenile arrests for drug offenses has jumped by 280% in Orange County over the last decade, outpacing more modest but steady increases seen statewide and in Los Angeles County.   Teen Drug Arrests, Orange County:   1990: 486   1991: 531   1992: 742   1993: 1107   1994: 1425   1995: 1642   1996: 1766   1997: 1808   1998: 1908   1999: 1849   Percent Change Between 1990 and 1999 (Number)   California: +70% (23,451)   Los Angeles: +12% (6,219)   Orange Co.: +280% (1,849)   Source: Times analysis of felony and misdemeanor arrest data from the California Department of Justice. Published: Monday, September 11, 2000 Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: David F. MustoCopyright: 2000 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comAddress: Times Mirror SquareLos Angeles, CA 90053Fax: (213) 237-4712Website: Article:USA Drug Arrests Tripled in 1998 Arrest Archives:
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Comment #3 posted by Frank on September 11, 2000 at 18:16:02 PT
DARE works, I'm an Alcoholic 
Sending teenagers for treatment just because they smoked pot? How ridiculous. I used to smoke corn silkwhen I was a kid out behind the barn. Corn silk is a gateway drug and leads to “other things” Corn silk smoking has been known to lead to teenage sex, rock and roll, sassing people in authority. Finally, when I grew older I gave up smoking corn silk after attending a “DARE” class. I turned to the “Drug Czar’s” approved drug – Grain Alcohol. I use the Drug Czar’s and “DARE’s approved drug regularly. The other night after getting bombed on Grain Alcohol is side swiped a parked care; however, I did make it over to my girlfriend’s apartment in a drunken rage and pounded her with my fists – the joys of Alcohol. I want to again thank “DARE” for steering me on the right path when I was a teenager and keeping me away from smoking corn silk. 
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Comment #2 posted by Dan B on September 11, 2000 at 08:25:17 PT:
Arrests Are Up,...and D.A.R.E. Works?
It is interesting to read this in light of the recent pro-D.A.R.E. article, and especially with the knowledge that Los Angeles is the origin of D.A.R.E. If there is a more clear indication that D.A.R.E. does not work, I'd like to see it. On another note, it seems that treatment is being cut everywhere. The state of Texas has discontinued all funding for substance abuse treatment in the entire Panhandle and South Plains area, yet during the past decade Texas has seen an unprecedented increase in prison funding.The old strategy of "lock 'em all up" is obviously a failure. Only a complete idiot or someone with a vested interest would argue otherwise. Drug abuse issues should be handled like alcohol issues: medically and socially through prevention and treatment, not criminally through incarceration and fines.  
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Comment #1 posted by dddd on September 11, 2000 at 08:21:08 PT
 I live down here in Orange County.But I think the main problem,is nationwide. The article says "treatment is hard to find",or underfunded,,,insufficient,,etc. Well here is why;Most of all drug arrests amongst youths,or adults,are for marijuana. I think that the main problem,is that you cant find anyone to "treat"something,that does not need "treating. It is sheer idiocy,to assume that some kid caught with marijuana needs "treatment",simply because he violated a law that is based on false pretenses,and invalid reasoning. Iy's no wonder there's a shortage of "treatment".Anyone who is smart enough to get the credentials to qualify as a "treatment counselor",or whatever their title is,would know that "treating" someone,who got busted under the draconian laws,is about the equivelent of opening up a "treatment" center for people who like hamburgers,,or ice cream. Just imagine some poor kid getting sent in for "treatment",because he was caught smoking weed.What kind of lame crap would the "treater",lay on the kid?,,,Something out of some ondcp/dare/pfadfa skewed propaganda that has been drilled into his head since the third grade.??..............dddd
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