Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jun 2007
Source: Azle News (TX)
Copyright: 2007, Azle News and HCN Online Services
Author: Edwin Newton
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Youth)


There is a drug problem in Azle, Texas.

And not enough is being done by parents and community  leaders to 
combat apathy.

Those were two of the key points made by Azle Police  Lt. Greg 
Arrington during a presentation he made to the  Azle Area Chamber of 
Commerce last week.

Arrington used part of the program to talk about  Shattered Dreams, a 
program sponsored by the Texas  Alcohol Beverage Commission to show 
students,  firsthand, what underage driving can do to families.

Participants assume the role of a teenager that has  lost their life 
as a result of driving under the  influence. As Arrington put it, 
it's sobering and  dramatic and "as real as it gets without actually  dying."

A stoic grim reaper stands by to take each one of the  fatal crash 
victims out of the classroom and into a  waiting hearse.

Handcuffed, the student charged with DWI goes to jail  -- but not 
before witnessing the cries of forlorn  parents who have lost their 
child to the tragedy.

Sixty students and 125 adults, including police  officers, 
firefighters and even PHI air ambulance  operators participated in 
the event which cost the city  about $6,300 in Azle Crime Control 
Prevention District  money.

Yet, with all the work and manpower put into the  program, the 
message seems to be falling on a lot of  deaf ears, Arrington said.

Less than three weeks after Shattered Dreams, over 60  Azle High 
School students were issued minor in  possession citations. The 
students had attended three  separate alcohol related parties.

Two of those students were key players in Arrington's  Shattered 
Dreams program.

One of those parties took place all the way out in  Jacksboro County.

Word has it that at least 60 people -- most students  from Azle -- 
attended the April 7 party. The Jack  County Sheriff's Department 
issued several tickets for  alcohol possession by minors.

Reports coming into the Azle News stated that as many  as 41 
citations were issued.

The thing that galls Arrington the most is that some  Azle parents 
knew about the party before it occurred.  In fact, he soon learned 
that a caravan of cars headed  out to the party.

No one called Azle police to inform them.

And it almost ended tragically.

Four teens who had been at the party were seriously  injured while 
driving home from the party. The driver  had fallen asleep at the 
wheel. Some of the students  suffered broken bones, but escaped with 
their lives.

Arrington said that, when it comes to alcohol and drug  stats, Azle 
is in pretty bad shape.

That's "good" news for a man trying to get his point  across. "I hope 
to stir your emotions enough that  you're ready to do something about 
the problem," he  said.

According to the most recent survey, taken in 2004,  Azle students 
are the most likely in Tarrant County to  have engaged in binge 
drinking more than once in a  month. Binge drinking has been defined 
as five or more  drinks on one occasion.

Twenty percent of Azle teens reported binge drinking  multiple times 
in the month prior to the survey.

In fact, 37.9 percent said they had at least one drink  during the 
month. Lake Worth High School came in first  with a percentage of 38.3 percent.

Azle students are second in the area, statistically --  a little over 
13 percent -- when it comes to marijuana  use.

Yet, quite possibly the most chilling statistic deals  with where the 
underage alcohol/drug use is taking  place.

According to a case summary taken between Aug. 1, 2006  and May 31, 
2007, 22 percent of alcohol/drug cases  investigated by Azle police 
occurred on school property  -- while school was in session.

Arrington said that some of the local businesses aren't  making it 
any easier, either.

Each time the police department sends out an undercover  inspector, 
he or she always finds at least one local  store willing to sell them alcohol.

"We can't keep them from selling alcohol to our kids,"  Arrington 
said. "Never -- not one time -- have we come  back with a (perfect) record."

The Azle Police Department is doing all it can to  increase the 
pressure on drug/alcohol use, he said. In  fact, Azle officers are 
making more arrests than ever,  then transferring the offenders into 
the local Juvenile  Detention Center.

The city's municipal court system is also doing its  part to work 
with the police department's Success With  Every Azle Teen (SWEAT) 
program. The program allows  minors to "work off" minor infractions 
instead of having to pay heavy fines.

Municipal Judge Doug Hudman, who works with SWEAT kids,  has seen his 
teen caseload increase to the point where  he had become concerned. 
Many of the minor traffic  violation citations are being replaced by 
more serious  "Class C" charges.

"We are in danger or losing an entire generation,"  Hudman said.

Arrington said that SWEAT and the 6th-grade-oriented  DARE program 
are just tools in the fight against  underage alcohol/drug use.

"It's time for this community to come together and do  something 
about this problem," he said. "It's not a  police problem, it's a 
community problem -- and it's  going to get worse if we don't do 
something about it."

He challenged the chamber -- and the community in  general -- to come 
up with solutions of their own.

Finding out who their kid's friends are and where the  party is makes 
for a good start, he said.

"A passive response is not going to work," he said. "If  you know of 
something, I want you to call me. That's  what we're here for."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman