Police arrested several teenagers on felony drug charges early Wednesday at Evergreen Cemetery. Parents of some of the teens say police overreacted and violated their children's rights.
A boy, 16, and a girl, 14, were arrested on charges of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, a felony. A girl, 15, also was arrested and charged with two counts of fourth-degree misconduct.
Another boy, 16, was arrested and charged with sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.
The names of the teens were not released. All were lodged overnight at the Johnson Youth Center.
"They used a cannon to shoot a sparrow," said a parent of one of the arrested teens who did not want his name released to protect his daughter's anonymity. "It was overkill to bring in a SWAT team to arrest these kids and then charge them with felonies for something that for what an adult would have been given a $100 ticket."
Around 7 a.m. Wednesday, police, in conjunction with the Southeast Alaska Narcotics Team or SEANET, began staking out the cemetery near Juneau-Douglas High School, said police Sgt. Troy Wilson.
The officers were in the cemetery, Wilson said, based on tips from students, school personnel, parents and residents in the area. Wilson said the cemetery has a history of teen drug use.
He said the growing concerns by residents and students coupled with police having the time and staff to utilize SEANET officers will enable surveillance of the cemetery to continue.
Wilson declined to say how many officers were involved in Wednesday's arrests.
Wilson said officers spotted some teens smoking pot in a vehicle around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday. Officers followed the vehicle as it left the area, he said. The juveniles were later found in Cope Park.
Capt. Tom Porter said officers found a marijuana pipe with residue in it when they searched the vehicle.
The driver, a boy, 16, admitted to smoking pot, Porter said, and was arrested.
Meanwhile, at the cemetery, officers spotted another carload of teens allegedly smoking marijuana. Porter said police approached the teens, searched their vehicle and found a marijuana pipe, cigarettes and alcohol.
The teens in the second vehicle were charged with felonies because they were within 500 feet of a school, Wilson said.
Some parents, such as Brian Bates, whose son was arrested in the sting, said they were not asked to be present during any questioning and did not consent to their children being questioned.
Wilson said police are allowed to ask questions of minors without parental consent while "conducting an investigation in the field." He said the minors do not have to answer the questions.
"I don't think it's inappropriate," said Wilson. "The bottom line is we need to create a safe environment so that residents and even other students don't have to worry on their way to school or walking through the neighborhood."
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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