Gilbert Town Council members want to get tough on drug abuse in schools, and they’re hoping to employ the same techniques they say helped rid the town of gang violence in the 1990s.
At that time, residents banded together, law enforcement placed undercover detectives on school campuses and the school district changed bus routes to drop children off at the Boys and Girls Club so they wouldn’t be vulnerable to the wrong crowd, explained Gilbert Vice Mayor Dave Crozier.
He said the Town Council back then stepped up to allocate more than $75,000 to the cause — something the town still funds today.
Crozier’s comments come about one week after parents met with administrators at Gilbert High School to address a heroin problem on that campus.
The Gilbert Human Relations Commission held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss alcohol and drug abuse among local teens, Crozier said. A police liaison there pointed out that drugs aren’t just a problem at Gilbert High, but at all the local high schools, he said.
Meanwhile, a group of Gilbert High parents has officially formed an organization called “PASTA” — “Parents, Administrators, Students, Teachers Alliance.” The group does not yet have a list of its activities, as its members first want to work with school administrators to see how they can best help, said Jason Barney, the group’s spokesman.
Crozier sent an e-mail to the parents earlier this week saying he is willing to volunteer weekly at Gilbert High, which his daughter attends, to provide an on-campus parental presence.
Like Crozier, Councilman Steve Urie hopes, too, for a community response to teenage drug use similar to gang prevention techniques from the 1990s.
“What I’m anticipating is the same type of cooperation, and a commitment of resources, if necessary, that we had during those gang activity days,” he said. “I will be willing to allocate or reallocate resources to be able to take care of the problem, because it doesn’t just go away.”
One possibility, he said, would be to place undercover police officers on campuses.
“We did have a couple officers undercover at the campuses and the only ones who knew were the principal and the police chief,” Urie said. “One-sixth of our population is in high school or junior high school during the day, so you might as well put your emphasis and resources where you can get the best return.”