Wednesday, May 22, 2024

New crime data reveals spike in on-campus marijuana use

In 2013, the total number of drug-related arrests made on campus at Plattsburgh State reached 57, more than double the combined drug law violations in 2012 and 2011, according to campus crime statistics released Tuesday by University Police.

Of those arrests, 56 were charged with unlawful possession of marijuana with the 57th arrest for criminal possession of marijuana. Two students were also arrested possession of LSD and Adderall.

Fourteen additional students were arrested for drug possession on adjoining public property. Twelve were arrested on marijuana possession charges, and two were arrested for criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman said he blames the recent spike in marijuana-related arrests on a cultural shift — students have been openly using marijuana because it’s becoming more accepted in some parts of the country.

Hartman also noted that all of the arrests reported in the annual crime statistics were specific to Clery Act standards. The Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to publically disclose crime statistics annually, recognizes arrests by location, not by individuals involved.

For instance, if a student was arrested on Margaret Street in front of Hawkins Hall, it can’t be reported in disclosed statistics because it is not recognized by the Clery Act.

“If the location doesn’t fit within Clery definition, we don’t report it,” Hartman said. “Some colleges get in trouble for over-reporting.”

This makes collecting Clery statistics confusing, Hartman said, and judicial records and arrests have to be carefully sorted when compiling the data every year.

And while most of last year’s campus arrests were marijuana related, University Police Chief Arlene Sabo said authorities are still keeping a close eye on the growing heroin epidemic in the surrounding community.

Last December, Clinton County saw the biggest drug bust in the area’s history with more than 60 taken into custody for possession of heroin and various other drugs. Five of those arrested were PSUC students.

Almost a year later, Sabo said the problem persists, noting that heroin has found its way on to campus in low numbers.

“It’s gotten bigger everywhere,” Sabo said. “If you think we are exempt, we’re not. We’re not immune.”

Sabo noted the continued use of heroin and other opiates is a result of tighter prescription drug laws, making heroin a cheap, abundant alternative.

Over the past year, Sabo said some UP officers have been trained to administer antidotes to counteract drug overdose. But she said UP’s approach to the problem has been more proactive than reactive, and there are still strategies in place to educate and prevent heroin from being used in the first place.

“What we want to do is prevent problems,” Sabo said. “We don’t want to just clean up after them. The more education we can do so we can make healthy decisions for ourselves, the better off we all are.”

So far, Sabo said PSUC does a good job keeping the college community in the loop when sharing drug prevention information.

“Our campus does particularly well,” she said. “We’re not overly large, so we do share information well between departments and individuals.

If there is a problem going on, we are pretty good at having an early alert system.”

However, Hartman said there is still room for improvement. A Drug and Alcohol Task Force was recently created, and it will unveil a three-year program to combat student substance abuse in December. Additionally, Hartman said there needs to be a closer examination of the correlation between substance abuse, sexual violence and hazing.

“We have work to do,” Hartman said. “There have been educational efforts, but it’s just not as coordinated as it needs to be.”

Email Brian Molongoski at

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