From the newsroom:

The six-part drug series I finished two weeks ago hit a nerve in our community. I have had comments, calls and e-mails concerning the series. All have been happy that something was written about a problem many in the community do not want to admit is here.

In the months of research before (and continuing after) the series, I was amazed at how little I knew about the drug subculture in our valley.

I want to share a few things that I discovered. First is in regard to those parents who think it's OK to buy liquor for their kids.

The attitude that, “Well, they will drink somewhere, it might as well be here” is ridiculous. Even young James Hamilton, struggling through the fog of an addiction to heroin, said that attitude is wrong.

My question to those parents is: “What are you thinking?” By telling kids it is OK at home, you are telling them it's OK away from home.

The drug culture in Crescenta Valley may not look like that in downtown Los Angeles, but it is here and we need to face that fact. There are kids using drugs occasionally, at a party or for “fun” now and then. Then there are kids who are life-long users who deal, steal and intimidate.

The problem is, these two groups are in the same world of drugs. Once your children begin using, they are introduced to a wide world of drug use that has more and more to offer them.

And to parents who used drugs in their high school and college days: One thing I learned from this series is that these aren't your momma's drugs these kids are using. The methamphetamine and heroin, even marijuana, are of a much stronger quality than “in the day.” Just because you made it through OK doesn't guarantee your kid will.

Parents who were frustrated with law enforcement contacted me. Some parents told me they had contacted law enforcement officialswithout receiving any response. They said they were ignored or made to feel silly for even raising their concerns.

For the most part we live in a very safe community, but it is that way because our parents are involved. We do want to know where our kids are and who they are with. When we see someone entering our neighbors' house when we know they are gone, we call law enforcement. The advice that I have received from both sheriff and police is if you don't get the response you want from the officer or deputy you contacted, try again. If there is still no response, contact the CV Town Council or Glendale Councilman John Drayman. Or call me; I will follow the leads and do what I can.

I may have ended the series, but I am not ending the research. I continue to contact people and follow up on stories. I want to thank all those who helped in the series, including police who continued to return my calls. But mostly I want to thank the community.

First of all, thanks to Sherry Velasquez, who was so open about the tragedy of losing her son. Thanks, too, to Aileen McCulloch, for continuing her fight to keep drug awareness alive in the community. These mothershave lost so much, yet they still want to reach out to try to save others. They must be commended. And to all the parents who called with comments and leads: keep on calling.

I appreciate the candor of James Hamilton. James went to school with my son, who remembers him as a guy with a great sense of humor. Somewhere along the line, James lost control and spiraled into heroin along with so many other drugs.

James is a user, but I have to tell you that he was honest and kind and blunt when we talked. He gave me a feel for what our children face every day. He contacted me and agreed to talk.

His mother should be proud and I hope that this time he will win the fight and stay clean.


MARY O'KEEFE is a staff writer for the Crescenta Valley Sun. She can be reached at Mary. O'Keefe @ latimes.com or (818) 790-8774.

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