Teen heroin use rising

All drug-related offenses in January investigated by the Glendale Police Department in the Crescenta Valley were attributed to heroin, an increasingly popular opiate among youth in the region, Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa said last week.

Heroin use has been escalating in the Crescenta Valley in the past five years as more high school students and young adults have become hooked, he said during a presentation on drug use in north Glendale to the Glendale City Council.

“For years and years, La Crescenta seemed to be untouched by a lot of the big-city ailments that we started experiencing in the rest of the community, and we are starting to see a change in that now,” he said.

There is no hard evidence, however, indicating that heroin use is on the rise in La Cañada Flintridge, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. David Silversparre said Tuesday.

There have been just two heroin-related arrests in La Cañada in the past 18 months, he said. The first occurred on Nov. 20, 2008 when sheriff’s deputies, using a search warrant, found 30 balloons of heroin at a private residence. The second arrest was made on Jan 19, 2010 following a traffic stop near Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard. The suspects, who were in possession of heroin, were Glendale residents, Silversparre said.

“I have not seen an increase of heroin usage in the La Cañada area,” Silversparre said. “The potential that people from other areas that are using heroin come to steal in La Cañada exists.”

Sheriff’s deputies are working closely with neighboring agencies to conduct surveillance and share information, he said.

North Glendale, as part of the Crescenta Valley, is a community in transition, making it more open to drug trends, De Pompa said. A Hollywood-based gang has played a major role in supplying heroin to the area, he added.

Gang members have allegedly given free samples of heroin to teens and taught them to smoke the drug to increase their client base, he reported.

The gang has also recruited members of the now-defunct 211C crew of La Crescenta into their fold, De Pompa said. At least 32 locals have been identified as belonging to the gang, he added.

In past two years, he said, Crescenta Valley High School has expelled 24 students and suspended 57 for alleged drug and alcohol use.

Police have also noticed that an increasing number of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 in the Crescenta Valley are acquiring medical marijuana cards to buy high-grade marijuana at pot shops in Sunland and Tujunga.

They also exploit the connection to sell the pot to other teens in the area, De Pompa said. “We are seeing that as a real trend. I think that creates a gateway environment to a more serious concern and that’s the influx of a variety of different opiates drugs.”

Many young heroin users in the Crescenta Valley have chosen to smoke and inhale the drug because it is more appealing than injecting it, De Pompa said.

“The sinister thing about smoking heroin is it is the fast route of administration to the brain,” he said. “Therefore the high is greatly intensified, and the potential for addiction goes up significantly, so we are dealing with quite a few addicted youngsters in this area.”

With the rise of prescription pill use, some teens are also engaging in a trend known as “cabinet parties,” De Pompa said.

Teens raid their parent’s medicine cabinet for opiates such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, and take them to the party, where the pills are dumped into a large bowl for communal use, he said.

— Megan O’Neil contributed to this report.

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