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Islanders seek solutions to combat hard drug dealers
By Steve Werhly/special to the Journal
Formed less than six months ago, the San Juan Island Anti-Tweakers and Thieves Group already has 143 members on Facebook.
And more than sixty islanders joined leaders of the group at its first public meeting, Saturday at the Mullis Center, to talk about methamphetamine and heroin abuse in San Juan County, and what can be done to prevent it.
After four hours and six pages of questions, moderator Paul Arroyo closed the meeting by declaring his personal satisfaction with both the questions and San Juan County Sheriff Rob Nou’s answers about prevention and prosecution of the sale and possession of methamphetamines and other drugs.
Most, but not all, of the audience nodded in agreement.
Before addressing three-dozen prepared and audience-submitted questions, Nou said he came to the meeting “honored and humbled” at the opportunity to “give publicity to a problem that hurts our children and open a line of communication with people that want to do something about the problem.”
A series of questions about what “average citizens” could do to report drug crimes and stop the “thievery that goes with drug use” led Nou to welcome help from citizens.
“We’re interested in tips, including anonymous tips,” Nou said. “The best crime protection can sometimes be a nosy neighbor."
Nou emphasized, however, that everything he does to prevent and prosecute crime must be guided by “the oath I took to uphold the Constitution, including especially the bill of rights that guaranties our freedom.”
Two specific anti-drug techniques were discussed: drug sniffing dogs and formation of a drug court. Nou said neither is part of San Juan County’s anti-drug portfolio, but both have merit and could be important in the drug abuse prevention program.
“We can borrow the dogs from the mainland when needed,” Nou said, adding that a drug-court model, used successfully in metropolitan areas, may make less sense in a small county like San Juan.
Nou noted that an important prevention step that parents could “and should” do is to pay close attention to their children, including checking backpacks, rooms and especially children’s cars.
“Parents have a responsibility to watch and check on these things,” said Nou, adding that the constitutional search-and-seizure guidelines that he must follow don’t apply to parents, who must do whatever’s necessary to keep their kids from hurting themselves or others.
Attending the meeting as a member of the audience, deputy prosecutor Charlie Silverman added that the greatest tragedy of drug abuse in the community is the “damage that all drugs, including alcohol and pot, do to the brains of our children.”
Steve Gresham, San Juan Island Drug Prevention Coordinator, and Brad Fincher, District Court Probation Officer, stressed that help was available, especially to kids, through public and private agencies and hospitals. Silverman cautioned that kids and adults in the criminal justice system face severe treatment and that state and local agencies have been forced to cut back on supervision because an ongoing drop in state funding. Fincher added that those on probation must pay part of the cost of their own supervision.