Letters to the Editor
Juvenile drug cases increasing
To the editor:
Information recently released by the U.S. Department of Justice reveals that 1995 juvenile drug offense cases jumped 145 percent from those reported in 1991.
Drug offenses include possession or sale of marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs. Although juvenile courts nationwide saw a decline in their drug offense caseloads from 1988 to 1991, a sharp increase was noted from 1991 to 1995, the last year of the reporting period.
Males accounted for the vast majority of drug cases prosecuted in juvenile court. Between 1986 and 1995, the male portion of the drug caseload ranged from 83 percent to 88 percent. In 1986, white males accounted for 53 percent of such cases; black males for 31 percent. With all cases considered, 58 percent of the drug caseload in 1995 involved male juveniles age 16 or older.
President Clinton recently announced a new assault against the illegal use of drugs. Millions of dollars will be spent on a media campaign, trying to change America's ambivalence toward "casual" drug use. Complaints have been heard about wasting tax dollars on what is essentially a public relations blitz. We should remember, however, the highly successful inroads made with a concentrated PR effort against drunk drivers. The very idea of a designated driver would have been laughable in the '70s. It is an accepted and valued norm today. Public opinion was swayed after a long and effective campaign. The drunk driver, edging his way home on the side of the road, is no longer topical humor.
At the risk of inflaming the passions of those who advocate drug legalization, it's about time that we start using all of the tools available to change the way people look at drug abuse: the media; the power of advertising; the Office of the President. It's time to advertise that cigarettes and marijuana are gateways to the abuse of other drugs.
Our youngest citizens are most at risk when movie and television stars, talk show hosts and even parents downplay the dangers of illicit drug use. Right now, comedians are trashing the government's new ad campaign against marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
No one makes a joke about people who die from a grinding, heart-wrenching, alcohol-induced traffic accident. Why is death-by-drugs still funny? Because the public acceptance has yet to be effectively challenged.
The government's use of media influence can only help change things for the better.
John L. Gray
Chief of police
The Altoona Herald - Mitchellville Index
Thursday, July 30, 1998, Page 6A
Post Office Box 427
Altoona, Iowa 50009