“This post is so gross. Non-violent drug offenses drain tax payer money. These people need treatment not prison,” an English teacher responding to the post said. The Gratis Police Department replied, “Who said anything about prison?”
When I screen-grabbed the Gratis Police Department’s Facebook post, it had been shared about 7,500 times, earning it the designation of ‘viral’ by a Dayton, Ohio TV station. When I noticed it, I saw it as yet another reminder of the classism that exists inside my county.
We have a hierarchy when it comes to which drugs are offensive.
Initially, in the county’s history, alcohol was our preferred drug, and it’s still the one most tolerated. In Spine Intact, Some Creases, Eaton High School graduate, and prolific author, Victor J. Banis, touches on Preble County’s mores on alcohol when he says,
“There is a general attitude that a boy by then (14) ought to be able to look after himself. This is reflected in the attitude toward drinking as well. Most small town families feel that when a boy is old enough to walk over to where the men are congregated and pick himself up a beer, he is old enough to drink it. It is not unusual, then, to see a teenage boy drinking in the local taverns, at any rate it wasn’t then (1940s). Everyone knows everyone in these towns so it is rarely a mystery to a bar owner how old his customer might be.”
Although, locally, the drinking has moved from the bar to the home, there still is no shortage of adult complicity as parents and/or adults willingly supply alcohol to underage consumers. And, presently, just like Hollowing Out The Middle points out there is a hierarchy to who is arrested in these high school ‘drinking parties’ — with the Stayers always be selected over the Achievers.
Who Gets Arrested?
Marijuana is so widely accepted in Preble County that in the last five or six indictments for cultivating marijuana, the defendants served no time for the offense — receiving treatment in lieu of conviction.
Another example of who is — or is not — arrested is the alleged statement by a Preble County business owners. Upon learning about the fentanyl problem a few years ago (that left 60 dead in one weekend in nearby Cincinnati), this individual’s concern was not so much for the dead, but rather a fear that a personal supply of marijuana would become tainted with the deadly additive. One would be hard-pressed to find an arrest record on the individual, however, if one looked close enough, they may find a relative employed in the county’s courthouse.
Meth, though, a drug that became entrenched here in the mid-to-late 90s, is considered the drug of ‘low-class’ people. We aggressively pursue these cases (and heroin), by and large, because those chemically addicted to meth, are poor.
The poor are the easiest to prosecute.
How they ended up on meth, though, has a common thread. Many began by experimenting with marijuana and/or alcohol.
Addressing The Problem, Not The Symptoms
Last year, about 10-12 percent of the children removed from Preble County homes were taken due to the presence of drugs. Some of our chemically-addicted neighbors faced severe trauma, often at a very young age, leading to their addiction. Others were mistreated in our foster homes and/or children’s home. One of my former co-workers, who I choose to remember as the 20-something full of life, now, 20 years later, struggles with addiction and is in-and-out of prison.
Another woman I met decades ago recently died of a heroin overdose. She left behind a family and children. In her death, I find the essence of her life because she was an organ donor — and in her death has given life to others. Many of our chemically addicted have been beaten down by us. They are the subject of poorly-crafted jokes, treated as less than human all the while as we, in Preble County still, in the 21st century, debate whether addiction is a disease or a choice (as if it matters). But some of the chemically-addicted, that I have personally met, made the ‘choice’ as young teenagers or preteens, forever altering the chemistry of their brain.
One individual, who spent time in my home last year, began experimenting with drugs as hard as Xanax in sixth or seventh grade. I’ve yet to meet a 12- or 13-year-old who understood the long term implications of consuming alcohol, marijuana, Xanax or any other chemical. And, I have yet to meet a 12- or 13-year-old who automatically knew where to purchase the contraband.
Since the 1970s, Preble County has been policing and prosecuting drug use from the angle of ‘how do we crush this out.’ It has not worked.
It’s time to ask a new question, try a new approach, and leave the joke-writing to professionals.
I also find it interesting that the officers had the time to edit the post multiple times — once to include the legal disclaimer. There seems to be more pressing issues than trying to trick a chemically-addicted person into turning themselves in.
For example, according to data from the Dayton Crime Lab and Ohio Attorney Office — 124 rape kits were submitted for evidence from Preble County over the past two decades. Between 1999-2017, of the 27 rape indictments processed through the Preble County Common Pleas Court — 17 returned a guilty conviction while four were dismissed, five were acquitted and one defendant plead to a lesser charge. These numbers suggest either a weakness in investigation or a weakness in prosecution.
National data demonstrates that in 92-98 percent of the reports — a rape, in fact, did occur. In solving these crimes, it may have the desired affect of reducing our illicit drug use.