Drug busts increase

Three times as many students have been evicted this year from University housing for drug possession compared to about this time last year.

Twelve individuals have lost housing for drug violations as of last week, while four students were evicted by the first week of October last year, Student Judicial Services Director Rebecca Sawyer said.

University Police officials are unsure what has caused the increase in drug violations, noting there has been no drug crackdown recently.

“There hasn’t been an increase in the number of patrols in residence halls,” UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said.

She said officers patrol residence halls “regularly,” meaning three times every eight hours.

Stafford also said the increase in arrests might not be related to increased drug use on campus.

“I don’t know if more students are smoking marijuana or if a small number of students are just smoking it more often, but based on the number of incidents we have been involved in this semester, it appears that students are smoking marijuana more frequently in University buildings,” she said.

Almost 90 percent of drug violations at GW involve marijuana, Stafford said. Out of the 89 drug law violations UPD referred to SJS in 2001, 78 involved marijuana or smoking paraphernalia.

“Marijuana has a distinct odor that permeates through rooms,” Stafford said. “People try to hide the smell by putting towels under the doors or lighting incense, but it just doesn’t work.”

UPD tests paraphernalia for marijuana residue. Possession of smoking paraphernalia, such as bowls or bongs, is a first-level drug violation, according to the University’s drug policy. Possession of marijuana or marijuana residue found on the device makes it a second-level drug offense. Stafford estimates that more than 95 percent of tests conducted by UPD find residue.

Students can be evicted for their first second-level violation or their second first-level violation. Students found guilty of distributing or selling drugs are subject to expulsion from the University on first violation.

Drug arrests have become more frequent in the past few years, according to UPD crime statistics. In 2001, 89 individuals were cited for drug law violations and referred to SJS, while UPD reported eight individuals to Metropolitan Police for drug offenses. So far in 2002, there have been 41 reported cases of drug offenses; the number of individuals charged varies with each violation.

For instance, UPD confiscated marijuana and paraphernalia during a drug bust in Madison Hall earlier this month, according to UPD crime reports. Several individuals were referred to SJS for disciplinary action.

Stafford said UPD refers students to MPD when officers believe they may have the intent to distribute or sell drugs. She refused to comment on the amount of drugs seized in such cases.

There were 43 drug law violations and seven drug arrests in 2000, and 46 drug law violations and two drug arrests in 1999.

Crime statistics for the Mount Vernon Campus are compiled separately. Three Mount Vernon residents have been cited so far this year.
In 1999 and 2000, there were no incidents of drug law violations or drug arrests at Mount Vernon. In 2001, five individuals were cited for drug law violations.

UPD and MPD have also conducted non-marijuana busts in the last year.

Last April, a raid in Fulbright Hall uncovered 500 ecstasy pills, half a pound of hashish and cigars filled with marijuana, according to an April 4, 2002 Hatchet report.

An undercover investigation by MPD’s Focus Mission Unit ended in the arrest of six students at American University last spring. Police seized more than $15,000 in cash, a car and unknown quantities of opium and marijuana.

Students had a number of explanations for the increase in the number of drug busts.

” Some kids have just never smoked before they came to school,” said a Thurston Hall resident. ” They don’t realize that it’s very easy to detect marijuana.”
Others cite the presence of UPD in residence halls.
” I always see cops walking around the hallways,” said another Thurston Hall resident. “They’re just looking to bust somebody.”

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