Pubdate: Fri, 19 May 2006
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Victoria News
Author: Rudy Haugeneder
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine - Canada)


Youth Commit Theft For Meth Hits

Teenage girls barely old enough to need training bras are targets - 
and victims - of crystal meth dealers.

It's because body-conscious girls as young as 13 are easily suckered 
into using the highly addictive street drug known as an appetite 
suppressant, says Mark McLaughlin, founder and president of the 
Crystal Meth Victoria Society.

"On the street one of the most common new customers are young girls 
between 13-14," he said.

"They are targeted because of body image concerns - (it's) a way to 
lose weight."

The pushers "prey on young girls, hoping to manipulate and control 
them" into becoming not only customers, but prostitutes or members of 
juvenile theft rings, said McLaughlin.

Addicted youngsters are sent to steal goods for which they are paid 
in crystal meth, he said.

It's a trap made more challenging because the federal young offender 
section of the federal Criminal Code renders the judicial system 
powerless to affect change, he added.

If caught, the teenagers don't suffer any consequences because of 
what he calls the "catch and release concept" which lets young offenders off.

Adult ringleaders are rarely fingered by their teen victims and also 
get off "home free."

Teenage crystal meth addicts experience addiction-caused erratic and 
often-violent behavior that results in them getting thrown out of 
home and school, he said.

Even when the teens hit legal adult age, McLaughlin said, the courts 
let them down because the reason for criminal activity - to buy 
crystal meth - isn't mentioned during court appearances. He thinks it 
would be useful to state the reason for criminal behavior so the 
appropriate treatment can be offered to help.

"Right now, nobody knows and no offer of treatment can be made," said 
McLaughlin, who recently won an award from Volunteer Vancouver 
recognizing the work of the society and a SD 61 Community Task Force 
on Meth. Society volunteer Nancy Pearson also won a Woman of 
Distinction award for her work as the group's media relations officer.

A task force survey of inmates at the local provincial jail in 
Saanich, the juvenile detention facility and those booked into police 
cells last year showed just how bad the crystal meth problem is.

The prisoner intake surveys showed 48 per cent of youth and 62 per 
cent of adult prisoners use crystal meth.

Fourteen per cent of youngsters and 42 per cent of adults said they 
committed crimes to support their addiction, with 16 per cent of 
youth and 56 per cent of adults committing crimes while high.

An informal survey of youth workers found that up to 85 per cent of 
workers' clients use crystal meth.

The surveys found that teen and adult crystal meth users agreed on 
what might help them stay away from the drug: counseling, treatment 
and positive social influences such as family and friends. The 
youngsters also cited leaving Victoria as a factor in recovery.

The society is inviting the public to attend a screening of the new 
documentary, "Crystal Fear, Crystal Clear", part of a Crystal Meth 
film and forum, at 1 p.m. today (Friday) at the Victoria Conservatory 
of Music, 709 Pandora Ave.
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