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Drug use up in SCV schools

Heroin, methamphetamines see a rise in popularity, according to district officials

Posted: October 10, 2009 8:40 p.m.
Updated: October 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

Although Santa Clarita Valley schools are safe and enjoy low crime rates compared to other Los Angeles County schools, drug use and some other crimes are on the rise, officials said last week.

“Overall, we have very safe campuses,” said Richard Freifeld, William S. Hart Union High School District director of student services.

 “We have effective administrators assisted by campus supervisors to secure the supervision … When problems arise, they are generally handled very well by our staff.”

Bob Messina, principal at Canyon High School, said the 2008-09 school year saw an abrupt upswing in drug-related problems.

“This past year, there was an inordinate amount of drug and alcohol incidents,” Messina said, noting the phenomenon was unusual for the campus that he describes as peaceful.

“We just had a rash (of incidents), and it was between the February and March area. It was just crazy.”

From January through August this year, there have been 10 narcotics-related incidents reported at Canyon, equal to the number of such incidents for the calendar year of 2008.

The school responded to the increase by holding a special educational assembly for juniors and seniors about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Canyon also now hosts the district’s ACTION Program, a weekly intervention group for teens and their parents, Messina said.

“We’re doing our best to try to educate kids better,” he said.

Districtwide problem
District officials say illegal drug use — especially of marijuana and alcohol — is a districtwide problem.

But Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s detectives say heroin and methamphetamine use among youth in the valley is gaining popularity.

“We haven’t seen heroin usage in any frequency like we’ve seen it in the last eight months to a year,” said Los Angeles County sheriff’s COBRA Detective Dan Finn, who added that teens are also using a lot of methamphetamine.

“I think (methamphetamine) is something new for the kids to try … They smoke it now, so it’s easily ingested, and it’s easily accessible.”

While drug use and thefts of valuable items like cell phones and iPods are on the rise, physical fights on campuses and Internet harassment are declining, Finn said.

“The kids are starting to realize that they’re not anonymous anymore on the Internet,” Finn said, adding that cyber-bullying and online threats were more prevalent a few years ago when MySpace first became popular.

Crime on video
The Hart district installed new surveillance cameras this school year — 12 for each high school and six for each junior high school — in partnership with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station to help prevent vandalism and other crimes, officials said.

“I’m hoping the cameras will be a deterrent,” said Messina, who added that they have already been used for a couple of incidents that occurred this school year.

There was a sharp increase at Canyon High, which had the district’s highest number of vandalism incidents, 19 in 2008, according to Messina. There were four incidents in 2007.

In other areas of campus crime, Saugus High School had the highest number of thefts, with 53 reported incidents over the past three years. The school had 20 reported incidents in 2006, dipped to seven in 2007 and shot up again to 26 in 2008.

Second-highest for reported thefts was Hart High School with 30 from 2006 through 2008, with only seven occurring last year.

Junior high crimes
La Mesa and Sierra Vista junior high schools, both in Canyon Country, surpassed the district’s high school campuses in weapon-possession incidents and non-aggravated assaults during the three-year period from 2006-8.

Sierra Vista Junior High School had 27 incidents of non-aggravated assault from 2006 to 2008.

Both schools had 11 reported incidents of weapons on campus compared to a high of only six incidents on the district’s high school campuses during the same period.

Partnership
Finn said that while local schools deal with crime issues, their partnership with the Sheriff’s Department keeps the campuses safer than most.

“We’ve had a really good working relationship with the Hart district and Castaic district as far as sharing information, cooperation and identifying suspects in crimes,” Finn said. “That’s probably the biggest reason that we don’t see rampant crime running through the school districts.”



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