Campus drug abuse on the rise; 91 charges in 2004

Sean Joseph

Drug abuse violations are the only increasing crimes at the university, according to the 2004 Campus Crime Act Statistics, and campus police officers have taken notice.

“The Kent State Police Department has always been aggressively pursuing drug related crimes,” said Lt. William Shanafelt of the Kent State Police, who also is in charge of the Western Portage County Drug Task Force.

It is easier to catch people with drugs on a college campus than in other communities because it is a more confined area, Shanafelt said. The task force works with Residence Services and security at the university and occasionally has undercover agents on campus.

Marijuana accounts for most of the arrests, though Shanafelt said he has seen some harder drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamines, in Portage County.

In 2003, the Kent State Police Department issued 71 total drug-related charges. In 2004, there were 91, and 69 were in residence halls.

Like any other population, there is a moderate amount of experimentation with drugs on campus, but there are not as many heavy users, said Alice Ickes, Kent State Police crime prevention officer.

“Because of the demand of classes (heavy users) end up flunking out, so we don’t see as many long-term problems in this community,” Ickes said.

Erick Steckel, sophomore marketing major, was picked up by police Saturday night and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. He said he believes there is not a hard-core drug problem on campus, but definitely a lot of marijuana use.

Because he was found with a pipe on him, Steckel has to appear at the Kent Municipal Court and could face up to 30 days in prison, lose his drivers license and a $250 fine, Ickes said. Any student with drug-related charges also has a Judicial Affairs hearing and risks dismissal from the university. They also could potentially lose all grants and scholarships.

Possessing a small amount of marijuana is a minor misdemeanor and punishable with up to a $100 fine, Ickes said. Someone charged with this offense would be found with a small amount that appears to be for personal consumption only.

The reason drug paraphernalia has a harsher penalty is because it shows a greater involvement with the use of a drug, Ickes said.

Steckel said he and a couple friends were in a wooded area near Tri-Towers when he was caught. Since they had only been there for a few minutes Steckel said he thinks the police were waiting for them and staking out the area.

“They’re cracking down and waiting to bust you,” Steckel said. “All the police cars aren’t just driving around campus for your health.”

A friend of Steckel’s, who prefers to remain anonymous and was not with him that night, said he had seen police stake out that area before and refuses to smoke in that area.

Because of the charges against him, Steckel said he has quit smoking marijuana. It was Steckel’s first run-in with the law.

“It was a wake-up call for me to stop smoking and start studying,” Steckel said. “If you’re going to smoke, make sure you do it off campus and away from Kent. The stupidest possible thing you could ever do is smoke in your room.”

Contact safety reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected].