Last night there was a large group of us gathered in the basement. The green- and red-colored Bob Marley incense burner was sitting there right in front of us as the fumes from the marijuana that was lit up began drifting toward us.
Some people said it was like the smell of a Jimmy Buffet concert.
Earlier, one man said “We are doing drugs tonight.”
At some point, the cocaine and the marijuana were passed around the room.
OK, so it’s not what it seems. During the Waukesha Citizen’s Academy on Thursday night, we learned about drugs, drug deals, drug arrests and the drug unit at the Waukesha Police Department.
And the marijuana that was being burned? It was without tetrahydrocannabinol – also known as THC – which is the active ingrediant in marijuana. The THC is what makes marijuana illegal and since this marijuana was sans-THC, no one got high.
I did, however, have a major headache from the smoke and the smell. It took me back to my first post-college apartment in Two Rivers, WI, where my best days without headaches were the days my neighbors were in jail for drug delivery charges. My small, one-bedroom apartment in an old fisherman’s house turned apartment building was a hot bed of criminal activity before I moved in. This I learned the day the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department came knocking at 1 a.m. about two weeks after I moved in. I wasn’t the person they were looking for, and let me tell you, that deputy is a lot scarier in the wee hours of the morning than he was a few days earlier when I was interviewing him about a new book he had just published in his pristine living room.
Needless to say, I wouldn’t be able to hide it very well if I did drugs with a drug raid team busting down my door and the ridiculous headaches I get any time I am around smoke and marijuana.
And I admit, when it comes to drugs, I have no idea about how much a person should take to get high. And I sure don’t know how I would be able to afford it.
But I now know a lot about how the Waukesha Police Department takes down drug dealers from the bottom up. But for the safety of those involved and to not compromise information about that, I am not going to get in depth about the breakdown of the unit and how they work together to take down drug dealers. Just know this – they work extremely hard to keep drugs off the streets and to fight the crime one dealer at a time.
But what has that looked like in Waukesha?
The sergeant in charge of the drug unit presented some stats in class. This is what it looks like:
- Felony cases; 114 in 2008, 216 in 2009, 128 in 2010
- Vehicles seized; one in 2008, seven in 2009, 17 in 2010
- Search warrants; 12 in 2008, 14 in 2009, 17 in 2010
- Buy busts; 13 in 2008, 17 in 2009, 10 in 2010
- Deliveries of marijuana; 30 in 2008, 54 in 2009, 24 in 2010 (resulting in 55,389.2 grams)
- Deliveries of crack cocaine; 30 in 2008, 50 in 2009, 67 in 2010 (resulting in 126.4 grams)
- Deliveries of powder cocaine; 18 in 2008, 13 in 2009, 16 in 2010 (resulting in 495.4 grams)
- Deliveries of heroin; 18 in 2008, nine in 2009, 17 in 2010 (resulting in 170.1 grams)
- Deliveries of various pills; 47 in 2008, 47 in 2009, 44 in 2010 (resulting in 1,481 pills)
We also learned way more than I ever thought was possible to know about gangs, gang activity and the way gangs are structured.
But just because a person is in a gang or says they have gang affiliation can the person be arrested.
“Being a gang member is not illegal,” said Waukesha Police Officer Greg Jonas. “It is when they commit a crime in the name of the gang that it becomes illegal.”
Waukesha does have gangs. You can see them leave their marks through graffiti. “This is their e-mail,” said Jonas while showing a picture of gang-related graffiti.
That’s why the city has an ordinance in place to make the property owners responsible for cleaning up graffiti left on the building within seven days.
“We don’t want to look like Milwaukee or Houston or Chicago or New York,” Jonas explained.
Young people join gangs for various reasons, Jonas explained, including for protection, for belonging and identity, because of peer pressure and even for discipline and structure.
So how can parents discourage and fight gang activity?
Listen to your kids, Jonas said, let them talk about their day and don’t say your piece until your young children and teens are done. And then use the following ideas:
- Tell them you disapprove of gang activities
- Tell them you don’t want them hurt
- Tell them they are special and worth protecting
- Tell them you want to help with the problems
- Tell them that families don’t keep secrets
- Tell them that you and other parents are working together against gangs