Drug busts just a ‘coincidence’

Simon Husted

Three heroin incidents in one year

Heroin dealer unrelated to Nov. incidents

With three heroin and one ecstasy bust this school year, drug activity is surging in Kent.

Commander Pat Burns of the Portage County Drug Task Force said Friday’s heroin bust had no connection with the two November heroin busts.

Roderick Wheeler, 28, of Ravenna, who was arrested during Friday’s bust, has an eight-year-long criminal history related to drugs, Burns said.

“I’ve actually arrested him personally on another drug investigation about seven years ago,” Burns said.

Burns added Wheeler has also been charged with dealing cocaine before.

Burns said Kent campus’ high student population and central position between Cleveland, Youngstown and Akron make it a clear target for drug activity.

Wheeler was charged with trafficking in heroin, a 3rd degree felony, possessing heroin, a 4th degree felony, and possessing criminal tools, a 5th degree felony, Burns said. During the arrest, Burns added, Wheeler had $1,600 worth of heroin on him.

Burns said the Drug Task Force had 133 open cases in 2009.

John Peach, chief of the Kent State Police Department, said the bust was never intended to happen at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. He said that’s just simply where the suspect ended up stopping before his arrest.

Burns added that many of the busts occur on campus only out of coincidence.

“It’s not that we’re specifically targeting the university, but when we get a call, we don’t discriminate, we go to wherever the call takes us,” Burns said.

Some students are not surprised by the insurgence of drug activity on campus.

Nicholas DePaola, freshmen pre-dental and biology major, said his hometown of Harrison City, Pa., was a quiet, isolated suburb 20 minutes away from Pittsburgh. Although the town was secluded from much violence, DePaola said high school students there experimented with drugs all the time.

“It was rich kids with too much money and too much time on their hands,” DePaola said.

He said the same environment seems to be true here.

“Maybe people are just looking for new things to do,” DePaola said. “They’re getting sick of the drinking and partying.”

Peach said the upswing in drug activity is nothing all too unusual. He said activity and even the different types of drugs circulate between years.

“When we have drug enforcement cases going on, and when we wind up arresting eight to 12 drug dealers on campus, it has a pretty strong, chilling effect for a year or so,” Peach said.

Although the number of drug busts has increased from previous years, Peach said law enforcement needs to crackdown on more people before drug activity decreases on campus.

“It’s not going to have any long-term effects until they (drug dealers) or their operations are threatened,” Peach said.

Some of KSUPD’s success with cracking down on crime comes from tips students give through the department’s confidential phone line, Peach said.

“We are really dependent on students telling us what they are seeing and hearing,” he said.

KSUPD’s confidential phone number is (330) 672-2212.

Contact safety reporter Simon Husted at [email protected].