High School Drug Busts
By Alex Distefano
A real life 21 Jump Street scenario played itself out at two IE area high school campuses earlier this month. The Riverside County Sheriff had two sting operations both using undercover narcotics agents, on December 12, at Paloma Valley High in Menifee and Perris High in the city of Perris there were arrests of around two dozen students, according to the Press Enterprise.
However, there were conflicting reports about the exact number of people taken into custody; the L.A. Times reported 25 arrests, while CBS reported 24 and The NY Daily News reported 22.
The most recent arrests at the two campuses included two adult students according to the Press Enterprise. They were identified as 19-year old Erick De La Cruz and 18-year-old Serina Ramirez, who were both taken into custody at Perris High School. All the other students were taken into police custody but into juvenile hall facilities, due to their ages.
This latest bust is just a list of many that have gone on campuses throughout the IE over the past few years. In 2012, a similar investigation occurred: Two high schools in Temecula also yielded around two dozen arrests of students. But, of those students, one was a special education student with autism. Now, his family has filed a lawsuit against the Temecula Valley Unified School District, which is still pending.
Students wonder if the techniques are safe and ethical, and many wonder just what kind of drugs and what quantities were seized at the busts. But, according to statements from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) has different goals in mind and is not out to bust major drug suppliers with these types of on-campus drug operations. The program is not designed to recover large amounts of drugs. The program is designed to quell hand-to-hand narcotics transactions on campus. The amounts purchased are typical of the type of transactions that normally occur in our community high school campuses, which may lead to other criminal activity,” said the statement about the ongoing investigations at other IE area high schools.
The drug raids at the two local high school campuses netted in various types of drugs, including prescription narcotics, crack, cocaine, speed, heroin, ecstasy, marijuana and hashish. According to the news reports and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, there were two deputies that were undercover agents—as high school students, a female at Paloma and a male at Perris. The deputies were on the campus since the start of the school year, which began their investigation. The Sheriffs worked in conjunction with the Perris and Menifee Police Departments, as well the Riverside County Regional Gang Task Force the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office other local and regional narcotics agencies.
Lt. Paul Bennett from the Riverside county Sheriff’s Department told the Press Enterprise that in this case at the two high schools, none of those arrested had Special Needs. He also said that the undercover deputies involved in the investigations specific training about handling Special Needs students and avoiding entrapment. Aside from the drug bust, according to Sheriff’s officials, the use of drug sniffing dogs and random searches is also used to help combat the rampant use and dealing of drugs on our campuses throughout the IE region.