Pubdate: Wed, 18 Apr 2001
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Author: Alex Breitler
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Raves)


Expert Says It's Vital To Stop The Use Of Designer Drugs At All-Night

By the end of Tuesday's conference on raves and club drugs, the crowd
had one more question: Is it happening here?

There was no clear answer.

No arrests have been made in connection with designer drugs since the
all-night raves began surfacing in the north state in the past year or
two, authorities said.

But that's no reason to get complacent, they were quick to add.

At least 250 police officers, social workers, teachers and students
heard shocking, sometimes chilling stories on Tuesday about the
relatively new drugs and their effects. Retired Los Angeles police
detective Trinka Porrata, considered to be a worldwide expert, led the
conference at the Holiday Inn on Hilltop Drive.

It marked the first large community gathering in the north state to
discuss the problem.

Police say designer drugs -- like the hallucinogenic stimulant Ecstasy
and GHB, notorious for use in date rape -- are used during raves, which
feature disc jockeys and dance music. Rave organizers, however, say
police paranoia is putting a stop to fun, safe and generally drug-free
events for kids.

"The question is not stopping the raves," Porrata said. "The question is
stopping the drugs."

Those drugs include GHB, the "nightmare from hell" that Porrata says is
the most dangerous drug she's seen in 25 years of law enforcement, and
Ecstasy, which Porrata calls the "alcohol of this (new) generation."

But a Redding man who used to produce similar parties says raves have
gotten a bad name after being associated with club drugs by worried law
enforcement officers.

"They (raves) are good things the cops have taken away from the
community," said 22-year-old Gabriel Verdugo of Redding. He did not
attend Tuesday's conference, citing the $30 cost per ticket.

Verdugo says he will no longer produce raves -- or, as he calls them,
electronic music festivals -- because of the added pressure by police.

While Verdugo says he tried to keep drugs out of his parties, it's
impossible to keep people from occasionally sneaking in with narcotics.

At the core, raves are about music, he said.

"They (police) are blowing things way out of proportion," he said.

But police say they need only turn to statistics to back up the problem.
Between October 1999 and August 2000, the U.S. Customs Service seized 8
million tablets of Ecstasy, compared with 3.5 million in all of 1999.

Most of those drugs wind up in teens' hands, they say -- and Shasta
County is not immune.

Police say events like Tuesday's conference are, in part, preventative
as well as reactive.

Justin Day, a freshman at Shasta High School in Redding who attended
along with dozens of other students, agreed.

"By getting more thorough knowledge, it'll really help students," he

Day said he hasn't seen club drugs used on campus.

"I do hear about stuff like this (at school)," he said. "I don't
associate myself with it."

Ed Pecis, commander of the Shasta Interagency Narcotics Task Force
(SINTF), said drug agents have attended three small raves -- two in
Shasta County and one in Siskiyou County.

Redding police also have attended raves, Sgt. Peter Hansen said last
week. Though they haven't caught anyone in the act, they suspect Ecstasy
is being used.

But since officers -- until recently -- hadn't been trained about club
drugs and raves, many didn't know what to look for, Hansen said.

Raves emerged in the 1980s in England, spreading west within a few
years. The parties attract anyone from 12 to about 35, Porrata said, in
numbers of up to 30,000.

Many boast of tight security and a lack of alcohol. But police believe
some security guards look the other way.

Law enforcement officers, too, have been distracted, Porrata said, by
older drugs like methamphetamine.

She said she hopes that will change.

"We've been too busy," she said. "And that's really kind of sad."
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