Teen heroin use ‘is rising’: Glendale chief says gangs are introducing drug to teens

By Veronica Rocha (Glendale News Press)
March 25, 2010

CITY HALL — All drug-related offenses in January investigated by Glendale police in the Crescenta Valley were attributed to heroin, an increasingly popular opiate among youth in the region, Police Chief Ron De Pompa said Tuesday.

Heroin use has been escalating in the Crescenta Valley in the past five years as more high school students and young adults have become hooked, he said during a presentation on drug use in north Glendale to the City Council.

“For years and years, La Crescenta seemed to be untouched by a lot of the big-city ailments that we started experiencing in the rest of the community, and we are starting to see a change in that now,” he said.

North Glendale, as part of the Crescenta Valley, is a community in transition, making it more open to drug trends, he said.

A Hollywood-based gang has played a major role in supplying heroin to the area, De Pompa said.

Gang members have allegedly given free samples of heroin to teens and taught them to smoke the drug to increase their client base, he reported.

The gang has also recruited members of the now-defunct 211 crew of La Crescenta into their fold, De Pompa said. At least 32 locals have been identified as belonging to the gang, he added.

“We think they have a pretty significant influence over a large amount of the kids in the La Crescenta area,” De Pompa said.

In past two years, he said Crescenta Valley High School has seen the effects of the drug trade on its students. The school expelled 24 students and suspended 57 for alleged drug and alcohol use.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman said she was aware of the drug issue and had asked De Pompa to talk about it at the meeting.

“It’s really shocking and it’s really dismaying,” she said.

She would support school programs aimed at rehabilitating addicted teens, she said, but acknowledged budget constraints in bringing those to fruition.

Nancy Stone said she and other members of the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Coalition weren’t aware of the gang’s extensive drug activities until they saw De Pompa’s presentation.

The group of parents, teachers, business owners and other stakeholders was created out of a need to eradicate drugs in the community.

“We see it as a broader community problem,” Stone said of the drug issue.

Police have also noticed that an increasing number of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 in the Crescenta Valley are acquiring medical marijuana cards to buy high-grade marijuana at pot shops in nearby Sunland and Tujunga.

They also exploit the connection to sell the pot to other teens in the area, De Pompa said.

“We are seeing that as a real trend,” he said. “I think that creates a gateway environment to a more serious concern and that’s the influx of a variety of different opiates drugs.”

Many young heroin users in the Crescenta Valley have chosen to smoke and inhale the drug because it is more appealing than injecting it, De Pompa said.

“The sinister thing about smoking heroin is it is the fast route of administration to the brain,” he said. “Therefore the high is greatly intensified, and the potential for addiction goes up significantly, so we are dealing with quite a few addicted youngsters in this area.”

With the rise of prescription pill use, some teens are also engaging in a trend known as “cabinet parties,” De Pompa said.

Teens raid their parent’s medicine cabinet for opiates such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, and take them to the party, where the pills are dumped into a large bowl for communal use, he said.

Along with a rise in drug use, thefts have also jumped in the Crescenta Valley in the past year. Drug abusers often use the stolen goods to support their habits, De Pompa said.

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