Marijuana at high school a concern for police chief

By John Gardner
The Surveyor

Sergeant Jim Anderson with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Berthoud Squad presented information to the Berthoud Trustees at the May 12 meeting regarding crime statistics for the town since the sheriff’s office began patrols in April 2014.

Anderson presented statistics from a Larimer County Sheriff’s Office incident report for the period between May 1, 2014, and April 30, 2015. According to that report, Berthoud deputies responded to 5,438 calls; of those calls 2,104 were received by dispatch while 3,334 were deputy initiated.

The largest call volumes included: Extra checks and business checks with 1,033, and traffic stops at 1,158. Anderson clarified those checks as deputies going into local businesses just to check on things and/or checking on businesses after hours just to make sure everything is OK.

Other high-volume incidents included: 348 citizen assists, 393 follow-up calls and 228 animal calls. Surprisingly, the report only listed two alcohol-related incidents and 14 assaults, which could be viewed as a high number for a town of Berthoud’s size.

But during Anderson’s presentation he emphasized apparent issues at Berthoud High School and Turner Middle School that caught his attention in this first year covering Berthoud. The report included statistics broken down at each of the Berthoud schools from the same date range. There were 497 total calls: 66 for Ivy Stockwell Elementary, 83 for Berthoud Elementary, 104 for TMS and 244 for BHS.

That amount, Anderson said, is alarming.

“You can see that we have four schools with calls; 497 calls at these schools is a lot,” Anderson said. “That’s quite a few for the per-capita we have here.”

However, at this point it’s difficult to put the statistics into context, as Anderson said he compared data from BHS to other area schools within the Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction, including Wellington Middle School in Wellington and Cache La Poudre Middle School in La Port. But since those schools are middle schools, comparing the data isn’t entirely accurate. So, this initial report will provide a baseline of sorts for the sheriff’s office moving forward, he said.

“That is what really started these reports with the schools,” Anderson said, “because we wanted to get that baseline to see how it compares.”

While the report only listed two drug-related incidents at the high school, according to Anderson, marijuana is a bigger problem at BHS than the report indicates.

“Drugs are very, very prominent in the school system,” Anderson told trustees at the May 12 meeting. “We are also getting drugs out of the middle school.”

Anderson explained that deputies have responded to a number of reports of marijuana at BHS over the past year. While medicinal and recreational marijuana is legal for people over the age of 21, it remains illegal for those under 21 to possess, use or distribute.

But even more alarming, along with drugs, Anderson said sexual assaults were another issue that stood out at the high school. But again, the report only listed two sexual assault incidents for the time period.

“We’ve really had a hard time working on that because it’s not going to be out in the open,” he said.

Sexual assaults are oftentimes difficult for law enforcement to combat because they aren’t reported, he said. According to the report, of the total calls at the schools, 86, or about 17 percent, were received from dispatch while 411, or about 83 percent, were deputy initiated.

Trustee Jennifer Baker asked an important question about what – if anything – could be done currently to combat these issues in the schools. To which Anderson responded that another Student Resource Officer would be the best line of defense.

“We would love to have another SRO in the middle school to address the issue head on,” Anderson said. “That is where the bad stuff really starts. It would help. It’s not going to eliminate, but it’s going to help because we can’t be there all the time.”

Anderson believes that law enforcement has had an impact in the schools within the first year of their presence in the schools, but the battle is far from over. He said the officers are working more in the elementary schools to try and get at the heart of the problems before those kids get into high school, or even middle school, where the issues like marijuana are now showing up.

“I really feel that we have made a big difference with the school district and the school system,” he said.

The other area Anderson highlighted in the presentation included gangs. Anderson told trustees that gangs are here and, with the town’s proximity to Highway 287 and being located between Loveland and Longmont, gang-related activity is going to increase as Berthoud grows. He presented trustees with a map that highlighted several areas expected to be developed in future years, and he said that with growth comes more crime.

“I want you to be aware when you have expansions like that, more rooftops mean more revenue, but it also increases crime,” Anderson said.

The issue with the report, however, is that it’s not entirely accurate. According to Anderson, a lot of the information he had to retrieve himself because several of the incident reports weren’t specifically attached to the Berthoud Squad or to Berthoud High School, so they weren’t listed in the report. That accounts for the discrepancy in Anderson’s statements and the incident report regarding drug-related incidents. But there is a system now in place to fix that issue and Anderson expects more accurate information in future reports, which he intends to present to trustees quarterly.

“We’re working on everyone to report their Berthoud time,” he said. “We’ve missed a lot of statistics; I’ve had to go back and look at what was in the town of Berthoud to get a lot of that information.”

The other issue with the new report is that there isn’t any previous information to compare it to. According to Anderson, to his knowledge, the former Berthoud Police Department didn’t keep records to compare this new data.

“We don’t have records from the previous Berthoud Police Department. There are so many things that didn’t get reported – all around – not just the schools,” Anderson said. “So, we don’t have anything to go off of.”