Hundreds of Dallas school kids have been arrested for carrying "cheez" heroin to school. More than a dozen have died after using it. The problem has hit the Hispanic communities the hardest because Mexican organizations are the ones bringing the black tar heroin into Texas. So what's the solution to stopping this problem? Dallas officials think they have the answer.
For only $2, kids can buy a deadly heroin mixture called "cheez." "This is all black tar heroin mixed with an over-the-counter sleep aide. It is a snortable form of the drug," said Jeffrey Stamm, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA,) Dallas Division. Stamm says kids are finding "cheez" heroin anywhere and everywhere.
How did it become such a big problem in Dallas? I-35 is the major corridor from Mexico to Oklahoma. Black tar heroin is being brought in from Mexico by drug traffickers and then the heroin is falling into the hands of teens at DISD. "Are kids selling at school or on the streets or both?" asked NewsChannel 11 Investigator Cecelia Jones. "We believe both," Stamm said.
From 2005 to 2007, Dallas Independent School District (DISD) police officers arrested 239 school children for having the drug on them at school. The average age of those arrested were 14 years old.
DISD Deputy Chief Gary Hodges says their biggest bust was on a 14-year-old girl. She had 14 grams of "cheez" heroin on her. Hodges says they knew they had a crisis on their hands and something needed to be done fast. Ten months ago, the district took an aggressive approach.
"Different disciplines, safe and drug free schools, our parent and student engagement departments, nurses, counselors, bringing all the different departments together creating an informational program," said Hodges.
Linda Yater's job is to combat drug problems district-wide in Dallas. But this time, she says it was time to kick it up a notch with their Prevention, Intervention and Enforcement Campaign. Prevention within Dallas schools really opened up some eyes. They pushed a program called 'First Alert,' where parents can sign their children up to be randomly drug tested at school.
"If kids are signed up to be drug tested, they don't know when it's going to happen. If they are approached to try drugs, they're going to say no. Because they don't know when they'll be tested," Yater said.
But for those who do have a dirty test. "Test results go to counselors who then contact parents. No punitive action is taken against a student. Our approach is, 'what can we do to help?'", she said.
Look what happened last school year. Hodges believes because the district became aggressive to tackle this problem, the number of arrests went down from ten in April of 2007 to one the next month. Compare that to a year ago that same month, 17 arrests took place. That's good news for DISD, but bad news someplace else. Drug dealers are more than likely looking for another vulnerable community to infect.
"Apparently it's moved a bit out from Dallas, out to the surrounding cities and counties," he said. Lubbock is only five and a half hours away. It may be a matter of time before the problem gets worse here, which is why the DEA is also tackling this problem full force by first targeting the traffickers bringing in the black tar heroin.
"We have also formed a coalitions with professionals from the medical community the treatment, and the education communities to get the message out to educate and teach our young kids the dangers, the fatal dangers, of experimenting with this drug," said Stamm.
Stamm says while law enforcement is doing its job on the streets, the key to combating this problem starts at home. "Certainly, the parents of Lubbock are no different than the parents of Dallas. They've got to talk to their kids. They've got to get in their kids space. Communicate with them, be a part of their lives. Talk to them about drugs often. It is a constant message they need reinforced," said Stamm.
Let your kids know "cheez" is heroin. It can kill you no matter if you swallow a pill, snort it, smoke it, or inject it. Last month, the DEA seized over seven kilos of black tar heroin in one Dallas neighborhood. Seven kilos is enough to make one million doses of "cheez" heroin.
We know narcotics officers in Lubbock are watching out for this stuff in Lubbock. They have been able to confiscate black tar heroin off Lubbock streets, but nothing has tested positive for cheez heroin, yet.
Law enforcement encourages citizens to report all drug activity. You can do so by calling Crime Line at (806) 741-1000.
So what are Lubbock officials doing at home to protect our children? NewsChannel 11 Investigates that Monday on NewsChannel 11 at 10.
A Deadly Substance, Part II: A Father's Story About "Cheez" Heroin
Could your children be playing with a dangerous drug called "cheez" heroin? One parent shares his devastating story about his son's overdose death with Investigator Cecelia Jones.
A Deadly Substance, Part I: "Cheez" Heroin