Officials with the National Institutes of Health say drug, cigarette and alcohol abuse is trending down, but is that true in Webster Parish?
Law enforcement officials say yes. Sheriff Gary Sexton said cases among juveniles are up, but they’ve made fewer drug arrests overall in 2014. However, in 2014, the number of cases involving juveniles was 36, up from 32 in 2013. These cases are just juveniles, kids from the age of 10 to 16. According to state law, Sexton said, 17-year-olds can be tried as adults.
He said it has to do with intent.
“He is considered to be an adult in the state of Louisiana,” Sexton said, “and the judges recognize that. He can also be classified as a juvenile under certain things at the age of 17. Under the age of 10, the law says (a child) can’t form intent to commit a crime.”
The sheriff’s office is doing its part to combat drug use through its Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
“We rely a lot on our DARE programs in the schools to try to educate the kids about the dangers of alcohol, smoking, drugs, bullying, and everything that goes along with it,” he said. “I look at how many people we put in jail every day from each agency, and I’m not seeing the amount of narcotics arrests that we have seen in the past.”
Springhill Chief of Police Will Lynd said almost the same thing, and commends the narcotics task force his department has joined with the sheriff’s office for the decrease.
“I feel like as Springhill itself, we’re in a better situation than we were four years ago,” Lynd said. “Four years ago, we were completely out of hand. We had a huge problem with drugs in Springhill.
That’s when the sheriff implemented the task force, and we’ve made a lot of arrests during that time.
That’s definitely helped our situation up here.”
Sexton said part of the reason narcotics arrests are down is because they are going after the suppliers and not so much the users.
“Over the last couple of years we are not making as many narcotics arrests as we normally have, but we are making some bigger pops,” the sheriff said. “That means hopefully people are getting educated on the fact that we work narcotics aggressively along with Minden and Springhill.”
In Minden, Chief Steve Cropper is continuing the battle the late Chief T.C. Bloxom started – eradicating drugs from the streets – and it seems to be working.
“We are following the national down trend at the local level,” he said.
In 2013, Cropper reported eight juveniles were arrested on drug charges and in 2014, only six were arrested. But that doesn’t necessarily mean drug use itself is down.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s handled internally at the high school that we don’t get involved in,” Cropper said. “But what we’ve actually handled in 2014 compared to 2013 is down a small percent.”
The National Institutes for Health reports the “2014 results are part of an overall two-decade trend among the nation’s youth.”
“With the rates of many drugs decreasing, and the rates of marijuana use appearing to level off, it is possible that prevention efforts are having an effect,” said Nora D. Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “It is now more important than ever for the public health community to continue to educate teens, parents, teachers, community leaders, the media and health care providers about the specific harms of drug use among teens, whose brains are still developing.”
According to the survey, 41,551 students from 377 public and private schools across the nation participated in the “Monitoring the Future” survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol and cigarette use and “related attitudes” in high school seniors nationwide. Eighth and tenth graders were added in 1991, NIDA reports.
“Monitoring the Future” survey is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The other two include the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.