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04-06-04 ‘Street Smart’officers warn of danger ahead

By Margie Wuebker

Rave parties, with high-energy music, rhythmic dancing and popular street drugs, are taking place throughout central Ohio.
   It’s only a matter of time before they show up here in the Grand Lake St. Marys area, according to law enforcement officers involved in Operation: Street Smart.
   The program, a collaborative effort between DARE and the Special Investigations Unit of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, drew more than 150 school personnel, social service agency representatives, law enforcement officers and concerned parents to Celina Intermediate School last week.
   “Rave parties and concerts may not be happening here, but they are only as far away as the Internet,” Celina Assistant Police Chief Cal Freeman said following the program. “Our kids are visiting the Internet sites and then heading to events in cities like Dayton, Columbus and Fort Wayne.”
   Participants, ages 13 to 30, speak a language of their own and often flaunt drug usage before unsuspecting parents as well as cops unfamiliar with the drug scene. They flock to barns, indoor arenas or outside venues intent on having a good time with others who share a penchant for drugs.
   Ecstacy — the love drug, the feel good drug and the warm and fuzzy drug — is a favorite with Rave participants. Those in search of an even speedier roll add cocaine, methamphetamine or a host of other controlled substances.
   Sgt. Michael Powell, a member of the Special Investigations Unit, said the largest Ecstacy case in the Columbus area actually started in Wapakoneta with a high school student who later enrolled at The Ohio State University. The Auglaize County resident was apprehended with 5,000 hits or doses of the drug often referred to as Rolaids and Tootsie Rolls.
   Rollers often hide Ecstacy in ordinary candy containers, Chapstick tubes or small bottles that once contained eye drops. They can take a hit under the eyes of adults without raising suspicion, the officer said. Others prefer to parachute — crushing tablets into fine powder, placing it in twists of rolling paper and then swallowing the packet. The combination of drug and stomach acid reportedly produces a quicker high. Plugging it — placing packets in the rectum — yields a slower high.
   The use of Ecstacy magnifies all five senses and produces involuntary actions like clenching the jaw, grinding teeth and chewing on the tongue or cheek. That is why rollers use pacifiers or candy during a high and up to a week after.
   Hunt said many rollers like glow sticks and glow necklaces because of their heightened senses when on Ecstacy.
   “They hold it close to their eyes and bathe in the glow,” he said.
   Like a roller coaster with exhilarating highs and plunging lows, Ecstacy users often spiral into post-usage depression codeacterized by irritability, extreme moodiness, unexplained crying, inability to focus and memory disruption.
   Some rollers ingest Ecstacy with a preparation known as Phencyclidine or PCP, a tranquilizer for large animals like elephants, rhinos and hippos.
   “No drug scares me more than PCP,” Powell said. “And now we’re seeing a resurgence in LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide).”
   The latter drug is sold in strips of stamp-like designs featuring everything from Alice in Wonderland to Mickey Mouse or gel forms.
   Approximately 90 to 95 percent of the drugs used today are imported or controlled by Russian drug syndicates, according to detective David Hunt. Young people get the money to purchase drugs through theft or selling themselves for sex. And they can get almost all the paraphernalia or other drug-related items on the Internet, he said.
   “The Internet brought many good things but it opened Pandora’s box,” he added. “Young people simply use mom and dad’s credit card to order up whatever they need or want.”
   Both Hunt and Powell encourage parents to check on their offspring. That means reading diaries, opening dresser drawers, monitoring Internet usage and checking on their friends and whereabouts.
   Hunt told about a recent search where authorities went to a $500,000 home in an exclusive Columbus suburb and shocked the parents when they uncovered a “one-stop drug shop” in their son’s bedroom. One dresser drawer yielded 200 to 300 hits of Ecstacy, one pound of marijuana and a stash of cocaine.
   “The mother told us later she found a little marijuana on three separate occasions but didn’t consider it a problem,” Hunt added. “Drugs are out there so pay attention. They could be right under your nose.”
   Date rape drugs also are surfacing on the street scene, he said, but not the Rohypnol of Roofies of the early 1960s. Today’s versions, known by the names GHB, G, Liquid G, Georgia Home Boy, GOOP and SOAP, are odorless, tasteless and colorless. They affect the central nervous system in much the same way as alcohol. A quarter gram packs the same wallop as a six pack of beer or three to four mixed drinks. Victims lose consciousness and awake in the morning with the uneasy feeling that something might have occurred.
   Some companies now manufacture Drink Safe Cards — a drop placed on the card reveals whether someone tampered with the contents of a drink.
   Marijuana remains the most widely used of all illicit drugs, according to Powell. Sixteen percent of eighth-graders reported using marijuana in a recent survey. The percentage climbed to 32 percent with sophomores and 37 percent with seniors.
   When it comes to abuse of controlled substances, 70 percent of users favor pharmaceuticals, such as OxyContin, Ritalin, Vicodin and Xanax, 60 percent lean toward imported drugs and 40 percent favor domestically grown or produced drugs.
   Methamphetamine is on its way to topping the list of domestically produced drugs. Cooks armed with recipes prepare it in clandestine labs like the one deputies located here in Mercer County late last year. The ingredients can be purchased or stolen from department stores and farm supply locations.
   “Meth is pushing crack cocaine out of the country,” Powell added. “That is the only good thing I can tell you about it.”
   The program — the first Operation: Street Smart has presented outside Franklin County — was made possible through a 21st Century Grant from the Mercer County Educational Service Center. Co-sponsors include the Ohio Crime Prevention Association, Ohio School Resource Association and the Mercer County Teen Coalition.


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