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Paul Becker: Drug problem requires community response

Live from City Hall

Posted: August 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Working in direct partnership with the City of Santa Clarita and the County of Los Angeles, I formed the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Juvenile Intervention Team, or J-Team, in July 2010.

Early studies indicated we were in fact seeing a substantial upward trend in drug use, which included alarming incidents of teenagers and young adults using the very powerful and addictive illicit drug heroin.

I have seen first-hand how dangerous and destructive heroin can be. I have seen it infiltrate even the most stable and well-balanced households and communities, driving a destructive and powerful wedge between loved ones and destroying relationships, families, lives—and the values they stand for.

I have seen teenagers and young adults convulsing in overdose or withdrawal.

And, unfortunately, I have seen young lives cut short by heroin and other drugs right here.

In fact, six lives have been lost to drugs in 2011 alone. I have seen mothers crying and fathers hitting walls in complete rage and disbelief as their teenage son lay there, motionless and lifeless. It is a helpless, empty feeling for all of us in law enforcement when we witness a family destroyed by drugs. We are not immune, Santa Clarita.

Heroin is so addictive that an immediate withdrawal is experienced by the user even after trying the drug only one time. The user experiences severe mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.

Everyone in our community suffers when heroin takes its deadly grip on one of our youth. The addict will do anything to supply his or her habit. These drug users often get involved with crime, including larceny, prostitution or robbery, or become heroin dealers themselves to support the habit as their lives spiral out of control.

They might begin stealing from or hurting those they care about most, with no regard for who they hurt. I have spoken to an individual who stole $6,000 of their own mother’s jewelry to pay for $200 of heroin.

In direct response to the issue of heroin and illegal drug use, it became my primary focus to implement a program formed around four primary components, which include hard-hitting enforcement, direct sustainable intervention, comprehensive relevant education and rehabilitation programs, and direct involvement of community members and leaders through our drug crime tip program.

The program has been very successful to date, resulting in more than 200 crime tips, nearly 400 heroin and other illegal substance arrests and the direct involvement of sheriff’s deputies working with community partners to place 72 drug-addicted teenagers and young adults into counseling and rehabilitation programs in the past year.

We are now in the final stages of creating the educational component of the program, which will include a mobile drug-awareness campaign designed to reach out to our school-age youth with real stories directly connected to Santa Clarita. This is not someone else’s problem; it is a problem we all share and we must continue our unwavering commitment to address it at all levels.  

I would like to encourage you to check out the newly-created website at: www.heroinkills.org.  The City/Sheriffs Department/Hart District are sponsoring a special heroin symposium on Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Activities Center, located at the Sports Complex 20850 Centre Pointe Parkway.

Paul Becker is the Chief of Police for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and can be reached at: pbecker@lasd.org. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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