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A report from the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission says youth alcohol and marijuana use has declined, but in Sedona, it’s on the rise.

By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers

A report from the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission says youth alcohol and marijuana use has declined, but in Sedona, it’s on the rise.

In Fiscal Year 2004-05, from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005, 25 Sedona youths were charged with alleged crimes, according to Harvey Grady, Yavapai County Youth Substance Abuse Coalition project evaluator. The next year — FY 2005-06 — this

number rose to 66.

“That’s a dramatic change,” Grady  said.

The commission’s report — based on a survey taken of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade Arizona students — found an overall decrease in lifetime substance abuse among youth.

In Sedona, more juveniles are charged with underage drinking than any other type of substance abuse, followed by marijuana.

According to Grady, 10 Sedona youths were charged with underage drinking in FY 2004-05. In FY 2005-04, the number of youth charged with underage drinking jumped to 32.

The commission’s survey reported a decrease from 69.2 percent in 2002 to 61.7 percent in 2006 for statewide lifetime use among youth.

“Alcohol is definitely the most abused drug in the school,” Sedona Red Rock High School resource officer Rena Dearden said. “There are definitely a lot of kids who toy with it.”

Sedona isn’t the only place alcohol is popular among teens, Dearden said. It’s a nationwide trend.

Dearden said statistics show substance abuse in Yavapai County as a whole is higher than state averages.

SRRHS junior Kali Gajewski said she’s sure many students at the school drink but it’s hard for her to predict the exact numbers because she isn’t involved in that scene.

“I don’t associate myself with that stuff,” Gajewski said.

Gajewski is the Student Council student body historian, features co-editor of the school paper, serves on the prom committee and is involved in Future Business Leaders of America, volleyball and track.

Gajewski agrees it’s not just a problem at SRRHS.

“Drinking is going to happen,” Gajewski said. “It’s part of high school.”

Most of the students who drink, according to Gajewski, do so because they are bored.

“You can have fun being sober and some high schoolers have forgotten that,” Gajewski said.

Tobacco is also popular among SRRHS students, Gajewski said.

Grady reported only one tobacco arrest for each of the past two fiscal years.

According to the state survey, tobacco use increases as grade level increases.

Gajewski said the only students she sees smoking can do so legally, but they aren’t the only students who do.

Marijuana use is often talked about as well, and harder drugs on rarer occasions, according to Gajewski.

The total number of drug-related arrests — excluding alcohol and tobacco — was 14 for FY 2004-05 and 33 for FY 2005-06, according to Grady.

Marijuana charges increased by 10, Grady said. In FY 2004-05, five Sedona youth were charged with marijuana related crimes. In FY 2005-06, that number was 15.

State statistics reported a decrease in youth who have used marijuana at least once from 2002 to 2006. In 2002, 20.5 percent of youth reported using the drug at least once. This number declined to 13.1 percent in 2006.

Gajewski said harder drugs aren’t talked about as much by students and Grady reported fewer arrests in the this area.

According to Grady’s statistics, the number of youth charged with narcotics possession decreased from three to two between FY 2004-05 and FY 2005-06.

Other drugs — hallucinogens, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroine, sedatives, etc. — are far less widely used by Arizona youth according to the commission’s survey.

Grady said he thinks harder drugs are being used in Sedona but youth aren’t getting caught as often.

So, to look closer at this area of substance abuse, Grady turns to other crime statistics.

“One of the things we look for are crimes that are associated with drug use,” Grady said.

According to Grady, crimes of violence and property damage often are associated with use of more extreme drugs, especially methamphetamine.

Youth violent crime increased from 10 in FY

2004-05 to 28 in FY 2005-06. Property damage charges against youth decreased from 64 to 32 during the same time frame.

Grady said that in Yavapai County, Sedona is recognized as one of 10 communities with a youth substance abuse problem. Sedona needs prevention and intervention programs, Grady added, to change this.

“Something is needed,” Grady said.


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