Portland NORML News - Sunday, November 30, 1997

Old Enemy Stalks Kids of Privilege (Prohibition-Caused Deaths
By Tainted Heroin Mount In Well-Off Plano, Texas)

Subj: US TX: Old Enemy Stalks Kids of Privilege
From: Jim Rosenfield (jnr@mediaone.net)
Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 15:17:05 -0500
Source: Los Angeles Times
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Pubdate: 30 Nov 1997
Author: Jesse Katz, Times Staff Writer


Overdoses of heroin have killed 11 young people in prosperous Plano, Texas,
since 1996, with 3 to 5 cases turning up each week. Reasons for the drug's
popularity are elusive.

PLANO, Texas--This is a great place to raise kids. Except when they die.

The golden buckle of the Sun Belt, its brick-walled subdivisions and
smoked-glass business parks swelling with white-collar migrants, Plano is
by almost every measure the apex of educated suburbia--clean streets, big
houses, 113 lighted ball fields.

With just two or three murders annually, this Dallas-area boomtown of
nearly 200,000 is Texas' safest city--and one of America's top 10. The
Children's Environmental Index calls it the nation's fourth most
kid-friendly community, based on such socioeconomic data as dropout rates
and household incomes. One of its high schools boasts an Academic Decathlon
championship, a prize that earned the team a White House visit with
President Clinton.

Then there is this measure: 11 young people dead of heroin overdoses since

Almost all of them were students, mostly popular, athletic and
affluent--"nice, preppy, middle-class children," in the words of one drug
abuse expert. They ranged in age from 15 to 22, a football player, a
philosophy major, a former altar boy, a Marine home for the holidays. Four
died last year, seven so far this year. And still the emergency room at
Columbia Medical Center reports an average of three to five overdoses a
week--unconscious, vomit-stained teenagers, often dumped at the hospital
doors by friends in brand-new Jeep Wranglers and Range Rovers and Ford

One now lies in a coma, his family searching for some sign of life to keep
him from becoming No. 12.

"How's this for a clean-cut, all-American-looking young man?" said Lowell
Hill, pulling out a wallet-size photo of his blond, square-jawed son,
Robert, a 1997 graduate of Plano East Senior High. On Aug. 20, he found Rob
slumped over in bed, his face buried in a pillow. He put his mouth to the
boy's blue lips, breathing for him, vainly. When doctors pronounced him
dead of an overdose--at the same hospital that welcomed him into the world
18 years earlier--his father was incredulous.

"How do you know?" the former life insurance executive demanded. "He was a
happy boy," said his mother, Andrea, a special education teacher. "The last
thing on my mind was to talk to my son about heroin."

The culprit, which has enjoyed a startling resurgence from the depths of
junkiedom in the '60s to the heights of trendiness in the '90s, is widely
available in Plano and conveniently packaged--usually in antihistamine
capsules that can be broken open and snorted, avoiding the stigma of
needles and syringes.

Sold for $10 to $20 a hit, the powder is marketed here under heroin's
Spanish nickname, chiva, which to Plano's predominantly Anglo kids sounds a
lot more like a designer drug than old-fashioned smack.

"I didn't even know what it was the first time I tried it, but I liked it
and I wasn't really interested in finding out," said Donald Jason Smith,
19, a recovering addict who has spent the past five months in county jail
for heroin possession. He described himself as someone with "good morals"
who was "brought up not to do drugs." His mother teaches government and
economics to 11th- and 12th-graders, his stepfather runs a jewelry shop.

But once you cross that line, no matter how naively, "the drug grabs ahold
of you and doesn't let go," Smith said. "I've taken friends to the hospital
after they've overdosed and then gone right back to where we were and kept
on using."


Heroin is not Plano's cross to bear alone. Gen X rockers and waifish
supermodels have lent it a new aura of glamour, a dreamy narcotic languor
compared to the manic rush of cocaine. From 1993 to 1996, the number of
Americans who had sampled heroin more than tripled, from 68,000 to 216,000,
according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Since the
beginning of the decade, the average age of first-time users has dropped
steadily, from nearly 25 down to about 19.

New distribution networks forged by the Latin American cartels have helped
expand the U.S. market, a phenomenon that the Drug Enforcement
Administration calls "double-breasting." Dealers who once sold only cocaine
now frequently also offer heroin, its purity and potency far greater than
what the Asian pipeline has traditionally delivered. The lethal results are
everywhere: four fatal overdoses in just one week this year in Boulder,
Colo.; 30 last year in Orlando; 28 in Ventura County.

"The rules have changed and the risks have changed," said Ted Dickey, a
Plano funeral home director whose mortuaries have buried about half of the
town's overdose victims. "The risk is no longer about losing a scholarship
or a place on the drill team or embarrassing the family; the risk is dying."


What makes the tally here so troubling is not just that this is a bastion
of privilege, although that undoubtedly has helped propel it into the news.

What so rattles Plano is that it already has been through an epidemic like
this, making headlines in the early '80s when eight teenagers committed
suicide, and a dozen others attempted it, in one nine-month spurt. At the
time, much was made of Plano's status as a "pop-up" city, a "nesting ground
for the migratory American executive," as the city manager said in a 1983
Newsweek article.

In two decades, it had gone from a quiet hamlet of 3,000 nestled in the
cotton and soy fields 20 miles north of Dallas to a high-achieving bedroom
community of 100,000, its growth fueled by Eastern professionals chasing
the Southwest's newfound prosperity.

It is hard to imagine how the sense of rootlessness and social
disruption--the homogeneity and competitive pressure--would have diminished
in the ensuing years. The population has doubled again, making Plano the
nation's fifth-fastest-growing city.

Less a suburb now than a capitalist sanctuary, civic leaders have persuaded
an impressive roster of corporations to relocate their headquarters here,
including such giants as J.C. Penney Co., Frito-Lay Inc. and Dr
Pepper/Seven-Up Cos.

"If you drive through Plano, there are miles upon miles of huge, brand-new
houses--enormous houses, 12 feet apart--and there's nobody there all day
long," said Sabina Stern, coordinator for the Collin County Substance Abuse
Program, a local referral agency. "Dad works. Mom works. Long hours.
Frequently one of them travels. Nobody eats dinner together anymore. When
do they talk? In the car? While they're chauffeuring their kids from one
activity to another, from school to ballet to soccer? It's insane."

Many of Plano's young addicts were given their own $20,000 cars as soon as
they turned 16. Some carry beepers and cell phones. Others have credit
cards; $100-a-week allowances for lunch; bedrooms equipped with TVs, VCRs,
mini-fridges and microwaves. "A lot of the parents have said that they saw
no sign of drugs," added Stern, who starts every day by scanning the
obituaries. "You don't want to be cruel. But sometimes you wonder how hard
they looked."


Unlike during the suicide crisis, when public discussion was considered an
invitation to copycats, Plano's leaders now make a deliberate effort to
challenge whatever ignorance or denial may continue to linger about heroin.

Led by Dickey, whose funeral homes also buried many teenage victims in the
'80s, a community task force is developing ways of saturating the city with
anti-drug messages--from warnings slipped into utility bills to billboards
plastered with photos of those who have died.

The police department has doubled the number of its narcotics investigators
from four to eight. The school district, which already had two dozen drug
and alcohol programs, has put more counselors on campuses.

A community forum that was expected to draw a couple of hundred parents
earlier this month turned into a cathartic outpouring of 1,800. "I'd never
seen so many frightened people before," Dickey said. "Normally, this is a
subject nobody wants to talk about."

But as much as some parents may have turned a blind eye, or even
contributed to their children's boredom and alienation, many others simply
have found themselves confronting a foe more powerful than their best

Addiction visited the Shaunfield home when Matt was just 17, a high school
sprinter. He tore up his knee that year. After surgery, he got his first
taste of Demerol. "Matt loved it," said his mother, Barbara, a former PTA
president, sitting on a leather couch in the living room of her elegant
brick home. "In the hospital, he had one of those machines where you can
dose yourself by pushing a button, and when they came to take it away, he
started hanging on to it. He said, 'You can't do this. This is my friend.'
I thought he was joking. So did the nurses."


After being discharged, Matt had access to enough pain pills to continue
feeding his hunger. His parents finally caught on and put him in rehab. He
graduated with his senior class and went on to college in East Texas, where
he studied business and psychology.

On a vacation at home, he relapsed. This time, it was heroin. That led to
more rehab and eventually to methadone, which he also found a way to abuse,
landing himself back in rehab.

He tried Narcotics Anonymous, psychoanalysis and family counseling.
"Sometimes he would say, 'Why me, Mom? Why do I have to be an addict?' "
his mother recalled. "I look at it kind of like cancer, not a moral issue
or a lack of willpower. I think wherever we lived, or whatever we did, Matt
would have had this problem."

In the fall of 1995, at the age of 22, Matt tried college again, this time
at a Mormon school in Utah. When he came home for Christmas, he appeared
healthy and sober. His dad, John, an inventor of fiber-optics technology,
bought a big-screen TV so they could watch football bowl games together.
Everyone agreed it was the family's best holiday.

On the day he returned to Utah, Matt called to say that he had arrived
safely and to tell his parents that he loved them.

The next morning, the Shaunfields got another call, this one from an
undertaker. "What do you want us to do with his body?" they were asked. It
was Jan. 2, 1996. Heroin has claimed 10 other Plano kids since.

Times researcher Lianne Hart contributed to this story.

Blacks Singled Out In Drug War, Critics Say (Alabama Criminal Justice
Information Center Reports Blacks Make Up 25 Percent Of State's Population,
55 Percent Of Its 72,000 Drug Arrestees)

Subj: US AL: Blacks singled out in drug war, critics say
From: adbryan@onramp.net
Date: Tue, 02 Dec 1997 00:38:30 -0800
Source: Detroit News
Author: Christine Jacobs / Scripps Howard
Contact: letters@detnews.com
Pubdate: Sun, 30 Nov 1997
Website: http://detnews.com/
Feedback: http://data.detnews.com:8081/feedback/index.hbs


Walter Collins pleads guilty to crack cocaine possession in Birmingham,
Ala., district court. He drew a two-year prison term.

By Lewis Kamb / Scripps Howard News Service

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Arrest and conviction statistics in Alabama and
the rest of the nation prove "that the war on drugs is a discriminatory
war," say critics who see blacks being disproportionately singled out by
the law enforcement system.

That many of the people who live in poor neighborhoods are black,
police say, goes a long way toward explaining why blacks comprise the
majority of arrests for drug offenses in Alabama. After all, police say,
it is the poorest neighborhoods where vacant drug houses are the easiest
to find.

But others, like Alabaster City Councilman Bobby Harris, say
statistics reveal "a symptom of our law enforcement that targets areas
frequented by minorities."

According to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, blacks
comprised about 55 percent of the roughly 72,000 total drug arrests in
the state since 1990. In contrast, blacks make up about 25 percent of
the state's population.

Such disproportionate figures are not exclusive to Alabama. Blacks
comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 35 percent
of those arrested on drug charges, according to a 1995 study by The
Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization in Washington.

"There are some crimes where you don't see the selectivity, but gee,
then you come to drug offenses," said Paul Butler, a criminal law
professor at George Washington University and former prosecutor for the
Department of Justice. "Whites are using drugs, but they're not being
arrested and going to jail for the same behavior that black people are."

The disparity in Alabama arrest figures do not mean police target
blacks for drug crimes, said Sgt. Ron Brandon, head of the Multi-Agency
Drug Enforcement Team in Jefferson County, one of 27 federally funded
drug task forces in Alabama. Officers go where community members
complain and where confidential informants take them, he said.

"If it turns out that there's more blacks being arrested than
whites, that's just the way the ball bounces," Brandon said.

More often than not, police make drug busts where they find open
drug activity.

"You're not going to see this kind of blatant drug activity going on
in Vestavia Hills, where there's $250,000 homes," Brandon said. "You're
going to see it in a poor neighborhood where there's a dilapidated house
where a dealer can pay the homeowner to sit on his front porch and sell

But to say drug crimes only occur in poor, black communities would
be untrue, Councilman Harris said.

"There is somewhat of a blatant disregard for the law in many
minority communities where you will see this type of illegal activity
going on right out in the open," Harris said. "However, that doesn't
overrule the fact that there is as much, perhaps even more, of a
concentration of drugs and illegal activity in the majority sector."

Once a community is known to harbor drug activity, state law gives
police more enforcement rights there. Under the "plain feel doctrine,"
Sgt. Brandon said, police can frisk just about anyone walking down the
street for simply having a suspicious bulge in his or her pocket.

Such policies allow police to persecute blacks who live in
high-crime areas, said U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, D-Birmingham.

Narcotics officers will tell you dealers are more prized than users.
That's one problem with drug enforcement strategies in Alabama and
elsewhere in America, said Clarence Lusane, professor and author of the
book Pipe Dream Blues: Racism and the War on Drugs.

"It's clear that their (law enforcement's) concentration is to meet
quotas and demands by elected officials," Lusane said.

Harris agreed.

"Law enforcement should not target the low man on the totem pole,"
he added. "They need to start targeting the high man. And believe me,
the high man is not black."

Straw Orders Drug Tests For All Offenders (British Home Secretary In Charge
Of Drug-Law Enforcement Announces New Government Powers - Unpublished Home
Office Study Says 20 Percent Of Arrestees Use Heroin Compared To 6 Percent In

Subj: UK: Straw Orders Drug Tests For All Offenders
From: Zosimos 
Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 18:08:57 -0500
Source: Sunday Times
Contact: editor@sunday-times.co.uk
Pubdate: Sun, 30 Nov 1997


by Nicholas Rufford Home Affairs Editor

All criminals face mandatory drug testing and treatment under powers to be
announced by the government this week. Ministers believe the measures in
the Crime and Disorder Bill will reverse the rise of drug-related crime.

Home Office research to be published in the new year has found that 70% of
all those arrested by police tested positive, and 20% had been using
heroin. In America, the comparable heroin figure is 6%.

The findings, which experts described as "explosive" in their implications,
indicate that Britain's drug-related crime is among the highest in
industrialised countries.

Jack Straw, the home secretary, is alarmed at the findings, particularly at
the link between heroin addiction and burglary, which suggest that drug
users are responsible for most domestic break-ins.

The study was commissioned from the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge
University, which tested suspects at police stations across Britain over 21
months. The results show that criminals steal to feed drug habits far more
than previously acknowledged.

Those testing positive in Cambridge and London were paying an average drug
bill of 4,000 a year. In Manchester the figure was 7,000. In all cases
the amount exceeded their legal earnings.

Drug-related crime is thought to cost 1 billion a year but some estimates
put the figure higher. One in 10 of those arrested in some areas earn at
least 25,000 a year from crime, according to the findings.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of
Probation Officers, said at least half of all property crime was
drug-related. "It is costing billions in insurance claims and
incarceration. The proposed testing strategy is very sensible, but the
treatment is very expensive."

The research was carried out in Cambridge, Manchester, London, Nottingham
and Sunderland. Arrestees had their urine tested for evidence of illegal

The new drug treatment and testing orders will be made at a judge's
discretion for at least six months and not longer than three years.

Offenders will be tested regularly to see whether they have kicked the
habit, and will undergo treatment. If they fail to comply, they will face
an immediate custodial sentence.

A Home Office source said: "These measures are aimed at first-time
offenders to toughen community sentences and to break the circle of drug
addiction and crime."

The bill is the government's first criminal justice bill. It also contains
measures for extending supervision for violent offenders after prison.




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