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Tigard Battles Drugs on All Fronts

Posted on January 31, 2007 by in Hometown, News, Oregon

The Times – January 2007

Tigard Police Department(TIGARD, OR) — Meth and other drugs are among us, devastating the lives of users and impacting the lives of people whose paths they cross, such as crime victims — that was the message delivered by several Tigard police officers, including all four of the school resource officers, at a recent gathering at the Tigard Public Library.

“Meth is the most pervasive drug when it comes to addiction — more than heroin,” said Neil Charlton, an SRO in the elementary and middle schools. “The first time it’s used, it can be addictive. People have a difficult time getting off it.

“People on meth stay awake for days. They don’t eat. Their teeth and bones deteriorate. The number of meth labs has been reduced, but they’re still out there in houses, apartments and garages. The chemical is very unstable. If it explodes, it can knock a house off its foundation. It’s dangerous to children, pets and neighbors, and lasts for years.”

According to Charlton, if someone cooked only 3 ounces of meth in a 2,500-square-foot house, it would end up on every surface in the house.

Another danger comes from sniffing airplane glue or cement, according to Charlton.

“It can be deadly the first time it’s used,” he said. “It displaces the oxygen in the lungs and shoots to the brain.”

Glen Scruggs, a former SRO at Tigard High School who now works in the elementary and middle schools, talked about club drugs.

“They’re often present at non-alcohol functions like dance clubs and raves,” he said. “Ecstasy is one of them and is chemically similar to meth — its use has exploded. It increases the heart rate and blood pressure and leads to confusion, insomnia and hallucinating.”

Ecstasy was the biggest problem at THS when Scruggs started working there, and he was startled to hear middle school students discussing it once in a parking lot.

LSD is the most potent hallucinogen, and other problem drugs include GHB, which is a synthetic depressant sold illicitly as a supplement to body builders, and Ketamine, an anesthesia used in veterinary surgery.

Dan Gill, who is the current SRO at THS, told the crowd, “The question I get asked the most is, do we have drugs in the schools? Yes, and the only reason we have them is because kids want them. At the high school, we work pretty hard to rid the school of that stuff.”

The most common drugs at THS are cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, according to Gill, but the SROs do see meth, Ecstasy and cocaine.

“I’m surprised that with all the meth in the state, we don’t see more in the schools,” he said. “I think most kids who use it drop out of school.”

Another problem at THS is pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by doctors.

“Vicodin is going for $1 a pill at school,” Gill said. “Alcohol is so easy for kids to get. They take it from home and sell it in water bottles. We don’t see a lot at school during the day — it’s mostly used at night and on weekends.”

Gill is an advocate of parents drug-testing their teens and hopes that the police department will soon be able to offer test kits.

Jamey McDonald, who is an SRO in the elementary schools and at THS, said, “Marijuana is a big deal. It is the most frequently used illegal drug in the world. It has had a pretty good increase in potency since the 1970s.

“We’ve seen kids who just could not function. There’s no quality control for the people making drugs. It’s not something to mess around with.”

Marijuana is grown everywhere, from small home-based operations to large ones on remote federal land, according to McDonald.

“In Tigard itself, we’ve located many indoor grows — not so many outdoor grows,” he said. “Oregon is among the highest states in the nation for indoor grows and seizures. In Oregon, it’s one of the highest cash crops and could very well be the highest. For us at the high school, it’s probably the top illegal drug.”

In neighborhoods, people can spot drug dealers by high traffic volume, short stays, the same cars coming back, a distinctive odor and windows covered.

Other clues for people to be aware of include abrupt changes in behavior, a lack of personal hygiene, missing work or school, changing friends or running with a rough crowd.

Sheryl Huiras, who is a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) teacher and the police department’s youth services officer, said that drug use “is not just a youth problem, it’s a community problem.”

“There’s a lot you can do if you think someone is using drugs,” she said. “The police department can help. We all need to work together to get these drugs out of our community.”

“If you’re a parent, don’t think it’s never going to happen to my kid. If they go out, wait up and talk to them. Look at their eyes. If you think there’s a problem in your neighborhood, call us.”