Officer watches for drug abuse

Eric Matejka, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, is passionate about drug-abuse prevention. The school resource officer for the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station has spent $10,000 and more than 300 vacation hours on classes dealing with drug-abuse prevention.

Although there isn't a huge drug problem in La Cañada schools, there are a few "isolated cases here and there" and it's something to keep an eye on, Matejka said at the Sept. 3 La Cañada Flintridge Youth Council meeting that focused on narcotics in the community and at La Cañada High School.

"With [La Cañada High School], I'm not going to say there are no drugs, because last year I definitely made numerous arrests there," Matejka said.

Matejka has made arrests for all types of drugs, he said. The most common narcotic he finds is marijuana, followed by methamphetamine and heroin. The biggest concern for him, however, is the increase he's seeing in the improper use of prescription medications.

"Big picture, is this a huge thing like in Compton or East L.A.? Probably not, but it's everywhere," he said. "Our detectives at the station, me at the school and parents are all working together on the matter."

Kids last school year were found using drugs and smoking at the top northeast end of Hahamongna Watershed Park, directly across the street from LCHS, said Matejka, who also made several arrests at the park.

Since the park falls under the Pasadena Police Department's jurisdiction, police officials there asked school administrators to warn students not to go into the park because if they were caught doing anything illegal or with any drug paraphernalia, they would be cited, Matejka said.

La Cañada High Assistant Principal Joanne Davidson said there is not a serious drug problem at LCHS.

"We are aware of situations and we address them when they become known to us," Davidson said. "We do interventions with kids, but I don't believe we have a significant problem. We try to work with our kids and their families and intervene as best as we can when information comes to our office."

The primary way La Cañada High combats drugs is through education, Matejka said. Each year the school participates in Red Ribbon Week in October, when students learn about the negative impact of drugs. Every two years they also put on the Every 15 Minutes program to discourage drunken driving.

Narcotics-detecting dogs are also brought on to campus to sniff out any drugs during the school year. At times they will find something and other times they may not find anything at all, Matejka said.

Another helpful tool comes from the students; at times they will bring problems to the administration's attention. Tips are helpful because the on-campus adults can't be everywhere at once, Matejka said.

"There are drugs all over," Matejka said. "I don't think you're going to find a school that doesn't have it, we just have to work to find it. I don't think La Cañada has a huge problem. I think we put a decent dent in it last year, but it's something we have to watch out for. We don't want it to grow out of control."

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