EXCLUSIVE: Cops say drug use is high despite declining numbers

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In this photograph made on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, a marijuana plant is seen at Tikkun Olam medical cannabis farm, near the northern Israeli city of Safed, Israel. Marijuana is illegal in Israel but medical use has been permitted since the early nineties for cancer patients and those with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

*Editor’s note: Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

When Jerry and Brielle Stanford* started their semester at BYU-Idaho, they did not expect to witness the underworld hidden beneath the surface.

After walking back to Jerry’s apartment from church, Jerry, a sophomore studying psychology, and Brielle, a sophomore majoring in marriage and family studies, saw a cloud of smoke over their heads. The smell made it hard to breathe. Soon after, the police showed up, banging on the apartment door.

Ten minutes later, Jerry’s roommate came out from his room with his hands in his pockets, while another officer came up to him and escorted him out of the apartment. The next day, the apartment manager put the eviction paper on his door.

Jerry said his roommate was arrested for using marijuana, and he was suspended from school about a month later.

Chuck Kunsaitis, a detective at the Rexburg Police Department, said there is a dark side and cycle of drug use in Rexburg. Right now, police, working with the roommates of drug users, use social media to catch the buyers and dealers.

“The underworld is alive and well,” a student told Kunsaitis after being arrested for drug use last year. “It is very active, and we can get any drugs we want.”

According to the data given by BYU-I, the Student Honor Office reported 15 incidents of students using drugs from 2015 to 2017, and 59 from 2012 to 2014 — the number decreased four times.

However, the data given by Idaho State Police shows the number of people being reported and arrested for drug use in the last 10 years in Rexburg is decreasing.

Capt. Randy Lewis of the Rexburg Police Department said with the budget they receive, officers need to work on several cases at the same time, and they do not have much time to enforce drug use laws. Although the crime rate decreases on paper, more people are abusing illegal drugs.

“There is even more than we think,” Kunsaitis said.

Lewis said he has seen students using methamphetamine, Adderall, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and prescription drugs. He said women use more marijuana and Adderall, while men use harder drugs like methamphetamine.

Kunsaitis said the cycle of students doing drugs repeats every semester. He said as freshmen come in, they bring drug habits. During the weeks of midterms and finals, many students use Adderall or Ritalin — which are central nervous system stimuli — to stay up for exams.

“Prescription drug use is terrible,” Lewis said. “It’s out of hand.”

Lewis said some students will “doctor shop.” They go to different doctors to get prescriptions and sell them.

Kunsaitis said the police educate doctors in local community care and hospitals on how people abuse the system to get prescription drugs.

Kunsaitis said, as the semester goes on, students will find other drug users on social media, through roommates or classmates, based on their behavior, language and clothing.

Kunsaitis said all of his drug cases have some form of social media involved. He said drug buyers use social media to identify and communicate with each other.

“By using social media, I can look at their pages, and the clothes they are wearing make me believe that they may be involved in drugs,” Kunsaitis said.

Kunsaitis said they had a criminal informant, a student at BYU-I, who did a controlled buy for them. The student went to a party in town and used Snapchat to locate the closest dealer. A few minutes later, the student set up a time and a place for a purchase.

The police recorded the conversation, were able to witness the purchase taking place and discovered the identity of   the dealers.

“It is that simple, and that is why it’s so scary,” Kunsaitis said.

According to the study from the University of Rochester, “Tracking Illicit Drug Dealing and Abuse on Instagram using Multimodal Analysis,” drug dealers go on photo-oriented social media with a massive number of active users to advertise illegal drugs.

The report shows by using hashtags, pictures and terms, police can track down the potential dealers on social media.

Kunsaitis said Snapchat makes it hard for police to investigate drug cases because snaps disappear after a certain amount of time and are deleted by default.

“(Drugs dealers) are feeling confident about doing drug deals over Snapchat,” Kunsaitis said. “They know the luck of the odds: They are not going to get caught.”

Kunsaitis said they usually have a criminal informant do three controlled drug purchases to break the drug-dealing chain. By doing so, they expand the connection, and sometimes it connects to other areas such as Utah, Montana and Oregon.

“There is no honor among thieves,” Lewis said. “Drug users are worse than that.”

Lewis said drug users will turn on their best friend or even their parents to get out of trouble. He said the police do not let them off the hook easily, but if they are willing to provide other contact information for the dealers, they could dismiss one or two of their charges.

Kunsaitis said they will also look at people’s clothing and language to identify them as part of the drug culture.

Lewis said drug users use slang terms to identify each other and help them find drugs to buy.

“It is like a different language,” Lewis said. “They know who to go to and where to buy it.”

Kunsaitis said drug culture includes certain brands of clothing and shoes. Certain shoelaces, symbols or features help drug users recognize each other. For example, they wear Ipath shoes with stash pouches where they can hide drugs, or they have marijuana signs on  their clothing.

Brielle said students who do drugs often request to live in private rooms, and she believes students can identify them by their obedience to the  Honor Code.

“If you (are) already seeing people who are not following the Honor Code, their correlation of doing drugs is that much higher,” Brielle said.

“Student Honor Office proceedings may be carried out prior to, simultaneously with, or following civil, criminal or ecclesiastical proceedings at the discretion of the Student Honor Office,” according to the Student Honor Office Investigation Process webpage. “Disciplinary sanctions shall not be subject to change because civil, criminal, or ecclesiastical actions were dismissed, reduced, or resolved in favor of or against the student.”

BYU-I does not tolerate students charged with criminal misconduct, and they will proceed with actions such as probation, suspension or placing holds on registration or graduation, according to the Student Honor Office Investigation Process webpage.

“Whether it was drug possession or any other crime, the Student Honor Office handles situations on a case by case basis,” said Brett Crandall, University Relations manager.

For rehabilitation and help with drug addictions, visit centerpointcounseling.com.

According to Idaho laws, students who are arrested with possessing three ounces of drugs or less are charged with a misdemeanor, more than three ounces is considered a felony and, unlike other states, Idaho does not accept a                         marijuana card.

“You get involved in that stuff, sooner or later you are going to get caught,” Lewis said. “There is not much honor among drug dealers and users.”