Pubdate: Sun, 29 Jul 2001
Source: Journal Gazette (IN)
Copyright: 2001 Journal Gazette
Author: Karen Balsley


Amid pulsating lights and a throbbing beat, hundreds of sweat-soaked teens 
and young adults dance, laugh, and have a good time.

For many attendants of rave parties, this is why they come.

But club drugs, including Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, and GHB, also play a dark 
role for some ravers in this underground culture. And that's why undercover 
detectives often attend the all-night dance parties.

On July 14, Fort Wayne police shut down a soiree dubbed "Northern Lights" 
at Trax Reception Hall, 2710 Nuttman Ave., after finding several 
party-goers using drugs. They arrested one juvenile and five adults, then 
searched more than 500 people.

"There were drugs just about every five feet," said one undercover 
detective, describing the floor of the hall after the rave was over.

Police and politicians are waging a war against party drugs through 
enforcement and public service announcements. Meanwhile, many rave 
advocates - many of whom agree that drugs should be eliminated from the 
all-night parties - are working to clean up the rave image and cling to 
their right to dance.

"We don't want the drugs there," said Jeff Caldwell, a local disc jockey 
who also goes by the name Jack Ackshun. "The legitimate crowd is there for 
the music and the vibe."

The parties themselves are perfectly legal if the promoters obtain the 
appropriate insurance and permits, said Jeremy Bufford, a local raver who 
helps organize some of the events. The drugs are brought by individual 
party-goers, not promoters, according to police.

Raves often start about 9 p.m. and go on until near dawn - or until police 
shut them down. The parties are more common in larger cities but occur 
frequently in Fort Wayne. Liz Brooks, owner of Trax, said her reception 
hall has hosted about a dozen raves in the past year.

Advertisements for the events are done through word of mouth and colorful 
fliers available in select restaurants, coffee shops, and clothing stores. 
Most fliers offer phone numbers, which party-goers can call to find out 
where the raves will take place or whether any changes in location or guest 
disc jockeys have been made, said Jason Lebel, a DJ also known as Symmetric.

The information lines and fliers often state that no drugs or alcohol are 
allowed at the events, Caldwell said.

However, those who frequent raves say the drugs are always there.

"When you go to a big city, you expect to see homeless people," said 
Matthew, a local college student and rave frequenter who asked his last 
name not be used. "When you go to raves, you expect to see someone high on 

Bad apples and candy kids

An assortment of characters, ranging in age from the midteens to mid-30s, 
congregate at rave parties. The crowd often includes college students, 
"clubbers" (those who frequent clubs), "geriatric ravers" (age 25 and up), 
and "candy kids," Matthew and Lebel said.

The latter group consists mostly of teens and are identifiable by their 
baggy jeans, tight T-shirts, visors, and bundles of colorful beads or candy 
that decorate their necks and arms, Matthew said.

They may also be the most vulnerable to club drugs.

"Candy kids are usually younger and are newer at the whole experience," 
Matthew said. "They have more of a wide-eyed wonderment about the whole thing."

Matthew admits he has tried a plethora of narcotics - marijuana, Ecstasy, 
LSD, cocaine and hallucinogenic mushrooms - but never at a rave.

"I've tried them all. I didn't like the feeling," he said. "Wow, if 
something were to happen to me (at a rave), how are my five friends ever 
going to find me (in a crowd of hundreds or thousands)?"

The party drugs made him feel vulnerable and euphoric, as if he could trust 
anyone, Matthew said.

"Life's not really like that," he said. "Why would you want to feel that 
way for four to five hours? It could crush you."

When police looked over the dance floor of Trax after shutting down the 
Northern Lights party, they found sweet tarts soaked with acid and clear 
capsules that could have contained any concoction of drugs, an undercover 
detective said.

Most rave organizers will call for an ambulance if necessary, Matthew said. 
They also aren't shy about calling police.

"There are some bad apples that spoil the barrel," Matthew said of the drug 
users. "If you find them, throw them out."

Cracking Down On Club Drugs

Police, venue owners, rave organizers, and the Governor's Commission for a 
Drug-Free Indiana are all participating in the fight against club drugs.

"The Constitution protects us in gathering peacefully together," Caldwell 
said. "We want to work with police. We don't want to fight them."

Every time a rave is planned at Trax, Brooks tells police because she knows 
some people are likely to bring drugs. She also hopes to have an officer at 
the front door from now on.

Many rave advocates are angered by officers' secret presence at raves. 
Others are more upset over the search that occurred at Northern Lights.

"Having undercover officers in there and busting people who are dealing, 
that's a good thing," Bufford said. "Shutting down a party because of 
drugs, that's a good thing, too. But searching every kid on their way out 
the door, they don't have the right to do that."

Brooks, whose own teen-age daughters attended Northern Lights, said the 
searches don't harm party-goers in the long-run. But she still wants to 
find an alternative to closing down the events.

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has been informed of the searches, said 
Michael McKillip, legislative director. He has also learned of a letter 
that was to be sent to Brooks by police, stating she could be fined by 
allowing raves to take place at Trax.

The letter was never sent because Brooks has been so cooperative with 
police, a narcotics officer said.

On Friday, Brooks, Lebel, and other organizers met with narcotics officers 
to discuss security at a rave planned for Saturday at Trax.

The meeting "went really well," Lebel said. "They were impressed that we 
are willing to work with them. My party's still on. They're not gonna just 
barge in and shut it down."

Lebel also said that off-duty, uniformed officers might be hired to work 
the doors at the party Saturday.

Assistant Police Chief John Grannan confirmed Fort Wayne police are willing 
to work with rave organizers. He declined to say whether officers would be 
at the party.

The ICLU will be following the discussions between rave advocates and 
police, McKillip said.

"We've agreed to watch what happens at this next rave," he said.

Meanwhile, the Governor's Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana has initiated 
a public service campaign to educate teen-agers and parents about the 
dangers of party drugs.

The campaign includes radio and TV shorts and billboard ads, in which the 
phrase, "Ecstasy. The kiss of death" flows out of a pair of giant red lips.

"We want kids to be aware of the dangers," said Jerry McCory, director of 
the commission. "Our hope is to catch some of these kids before a narcotics 
officer does at a rave."

Information is available through the commission at (866) 777-0007 or

So far, only parents have called for information, McCory said. But any 
education can help curb the use of party drugs, he said.

However, one undercover Fort Wayne detective said many young people have 
already educated themselves about party drugs like Ecstasy.

"All these kids I interview say, 'I know about this drug,' " the detective 
said. They find information on the Internet and learn how much they can 
take without endangering themselves, he said.

"We just want to get ahead of the curve," McCory said. "So many other 
states have waited until it was a real big problem."

A Rave Rebirth

Meanwhile, rave promoters are working to improve the image of the all-night 
bashes and to police themselves.

"We're gonna try to kill the word 'rave' and start a rebirth of the 
positive side," Caldwell said. "Electric Dance Music Event" is one name in 
the running, he said. "What we're trying to do is put a new lifeline into 
the underground community."

Rave advocates have started up a group called the Kick Mode Squad to keep 
out or remove anyone selling or using drugs at the parties, Caldwell said. 
The squad will use non-violent techniques, he said.

The efforts proved successful July 22 at Lawton Park at a rave party called 
"Free Flow," Bufford and Caldwell said. One person was thrown out for 
allegedly dealing illegal substances, and everyone else appeared to be 
sober, they said.

"We did it," Bufford said. "Everything was peaceful."

The Kick Mode Squad will again be out in force Saturday during "Prisoners 
of Technology," the rave at Trax, Caldwell said.

Caldwell also plans to stand on a box outside the door and repeatedly 
announce that drugs will not be tolerated.

"We want to provide a safe environment for our customers and our friends," 
Lebel said. "I don't want people coming to my events because they're 
drug-marked. I want them to come to dance."
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