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Drugs, gangs and sex: Parents should know what kids are up to

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Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 10:00 pm

Another Monday, and school is the last place a child wants to be - or maybe it is!

School can be a haven of unlimited possibilities for drug trafficking and gang activity or recruitment. When I became a School Resource Officer, I was amazed at how readily accessible drugs are at the school, and how easy it is to be inducted into a gang. It is sad that our schools have now become a breeding place for criminal activity and are accepted as a social arena rather than an educational one. Hopefully this article will give you insight into what some high school students are really doing when they are at school, aside from attending classes.

Drugs

The most popular drugs for teens at this time are prescription drugs, marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol. Most parents are shocked to find that their children are using drugs, and more shocked that they are using family member's prescription drugs. Many children go into their parent's medicine cabinet and take Vicodin, Tylenol with codeine, muscle relaxants, and anything else that is an available. Many of these drugs are brought onto campus to sell or give away.

Many prescription drug abusers prefer legal drugs to street drugs because they are of higher purity. (Street drugs contain unknown substances.) There are also parties called "pharming" parties where everyone attending is supposed to raid their parent's medicine cabinet. The drugs are placed in a big bowl, mixed together, and the participants ingest the evil mixture, usually with alcohol.

Ecstasy is a designer drug with both stimulant and mild hallucinogenic qualities, modeled after methamphetamine. It has also been known to contain opiates. Symptoms associated with Ecstasy are increased blood pressure, sweating, nausea and fatigue, gritting and grinding of teeth, and dilated pupils.

Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit drug today. Marijuana comes from the leaves and flowering buds of cannabis sativa, the hemp plant. Marijuana is hard to classify, as it can be a hallucinogenic and a sedative because of varying amounts of the active ingredient THC. A new and popular drug is Salvia, a plant similar to marijuana. It, too, causes hallucinogenic effects, and can be quite dangerous depending on the amount used.

Gangs

Did you know that by the time they are in the third grade, most children know about gangs or have been approached to participate in gang activity? It is common for children who have low self-esteem, or are looking to "fit in," to be the target for recruitment in a gang.

Gangs that are the most prevalent in the high schools wear with the colors blue or red. The blue team refers to themselves as "Surenos" (Southerners) and the red team refers to themselves as "Nortenos" (Northerners.) If your child is wearing a lot of one color and hanging out with individuals also wearing blue or red, you need to question if they are in a gang. Do they write "Sur," "Norte," "13," and "14"? Do they have a nickname, also known as a moniker, like "Tweety," "Smiley" or "Bullet"?

Cellular telephones and MySpace

The root of all evil with these juveniles begins and ends with cellular telephones and MySpace. If you really want to know what your child is doing or what they are up to, look at their cell phones and their MySpace accounts. It is shocking to see the postings on MySpace about drugs, gangs, parties, fights, etc. I have surfed MySpace and was amazed to see how our children pose with guns and talk about fights they were in, thefts they had committed, sex they had participated in and gang initiations.

It surprises me that they post criminal incidents on MySpace and their cell phones. I have stopped several drug deals, found out about parties and known about upcoming fights at school because of information on confiscated cell phones.

What can parents do?

Now that I have shocked many of you, I am sure you are wondering what can be done to prevent this from affecting your child. Be involved in what your child is doing by looking at their computer accounts and checking their cell phones. Know what is in your child's backpacks and bedrooms. Talk with your child about these dangers and know who your child's friends are (get names and telephone numbers). Being proactive can help you safeguard your child and protect their future.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please e-mail slopez@pd.lodi.gov or call (209)333-6727 for Officer Shana Lopez.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov or mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240, phone (209) 333-6864.

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