High schools see uptick in drug arrests

Police say increase a reflection of staff members becoming more aware of signs

Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2008

Five area high schoolers have been arrested this month on felony drug charges for marijuana possession, and the head of the region's juvenile probation office said he's been "inordinately busy" with school drug cases.

Capt. Jerry Nankervis of the Juneau Police Department said the uptick is a reflection of school staffs that are more aware of the signs of drug use, rather than increased drug use among youths.

"My position is: I don't believe there's been any more activity. I just believe we caught 'em," Nankervis said.

Nankervis said the perceived crackdown might be attributable to knowledge Officer Jason Van Sickle brought with him this year when he became the new school resource officer - he had previously worked in the department's narcotics unit.

"He's much more familiar with drug culture than some of the other folks we've had in there. He's taken that experience into the schools," Nankervis said.

Van Sickle could not be reached for comment, but Nankervis said he's been educating school staffs on signs to look for that may indicate drug dealing and use. All five cases this month were the product of school staff members contacting the police.

Paula Casperson, assistant principal at Juneau-Douglas High School, said every case is different, but typically if administrators have reasonable information that a student is in possession or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they'll question the student and order a "self-search," where the student must turn out his or her pockets and the like.

"A school's ability to have these conversations is different than police," Casperson said. "We can have conversations any time. That's not necessarily the case with the police."

The police may have one more trick in the bag.

"It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities for us to have someone in the schools working undercover," Nankervis volunteered. He declined to elaborate.

School drug arrests aren't very unusual, though they do appear to be up. Casperson said last December, there were only two. Of the five this month, three were from Juneau-Douglas High School and two from Thunder Mountain High School.

Juvenile arrestees end up under the supervision of Joe Adelmeyer, chief probation officer for the Southeast region of the Division of Juvenile Justice. Adelmeyer said he's been "inordinately busy" with school drug cases lately.

"It definitely seems like there's been an increase in drug activity at the schools. ... I don't know what the drug numbers say, but there's been a lot of activity in the last couple of months," Adelmeyer said.

Catching a few teenagers with drugs may not have a major effect in the grand scheme of the drug trade, but Nankervis said it is worthwhile because it's still against the law, and those arrests can lead to "bigger fish."

Plus, Casperson said, "Anytime you have drugs on campus, it's a problem."

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