March 21, 2001
Good Morning. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Steven Rust, a Police Officer in Milford Delaware. I have served the Milford Police Department since 1985, and have been involved in drug investigations over my entire career. I currently serve with the Community Policing Unit and investigate drug related criminal activity. I also serve with a Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force in Dover Delaware.
I became involved in drug investigations in about 1988 actively participating drug investigations in our communities. During this time Crack Cocaine swept through predominantly low income communities spreading fear, violence, and property crime into the life of innocent citizens. Drug dealers plied their trade on street corners in various neighborhoods, and anyone willing to call the police was labeled a snitch, and marked for retaliation. Crack cocaine was, and is, a highly addictive drug that will push the addict to extreme circumstances to nourish his addiction. I would estimate that over 80% of property crime across the country is related to drug activity.
Crack cocaine brought with it a new generation of drug dealer. Dealers routinely carried weapons, and resorted to violence to settle turf wars, disputes, and silence those who compromised the secrecy of the illegal organization or the identities of those involved. Crack cocaine has raced through major cities, rural towns, and suburban communities, bringing with it the associated criminal activities of thugs and addicts.
Today, a new generation of illegal drugs threatens our communities. It is bringing with it the burglaries, thefts, robberies and violence as seen with crack. It is not as prevalent among our adult citizens, it is instead popular with children and teenagers. It has reached epidemic proportions in many neighborhoods.
The drugs of which I am speaking are MDMA, GHB, Ketamine, and our old friend LSD. Teens have turned away from crack cocaine and are running for the new drugs of choice which I mentioned. In 1999 Milford Police investigated the first reports of Ecstasy, and Ketamine in our community. Like many police agencies, our officers are not trained in what to look for in the investigation of these crimes. Law enforcement has been attacked from a new front, one which we were not prepared to defend. Officers now look at things such as lollipops, spring water, pacifiers, and light toys as drug paraphernalia. Kids who should be participating in little league, soccer, basketball, football, and youth group are now looking for excitement at "RAVES".
A rave is a dance which attracts hundreds, sometimes thousands of children and young adults to dance all night. Popular at such raves are the drugs Ecstasy (MDMA), GHB (The Date Rape Drug), and Ketamine (Special K). Cocktailing, the mixing of a number of drugs together, is common at these raves. As the epidemic proceeds, we will see senseless deaths of "good kids" within all of our communities. Many kids point to the fact that there are few fights and reports of violence at RAVES as evidence that RAVES are acceptable. Kids are being told that these drugs are safer, give a mellow high, and are the perfect enhancement to the RAVE experience. In other words, these kids are being set up for overdose, addiction, and tragedy.
The investigation of this type of drug related criminal activity is complex, and difficult. Many times the information being relayed to law enforcement comes from juvenile offenders. Often, the policies of law enforcement prohibit the use of juveniles as informants. Parents most often don’t want their children to assist, fearing retaliation against the child. Adult officers most likely cannot purchase, nor infiltrate the organizations responsible for the distribution of these substances.
In 1998 the Milford Police Department executed a search warrant on the residence of a young adult male dealing marijuana. During the search, over a pound of marijuana was found, along with Ecstasy and Ketamine. This was my first experience with the drug MDMA, and the beginning of a quick education. Later that same day we learned that a young adult male in Lewes (DE) was distributing ecstasy in the beach areas as well as Milford. The assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force in Dover was employed and just under 1000 tablets were seized Along with marijuana and paraphernalia, we found evidence of the distribution of over a thousand pills. Records kept by the defendant showed an income from the distribution of pills to be $44,000.00. This is allegedly the profits of a short time of dealing the pills in bars, nightclubs, and to teens at the beach.
This case led us to another case involving ecstasy in Milford. A search warrant executed on a Milford man resulted in Ketamine being recovered. The suspect in this case related that the Ketamine (Special K) was sprinkled on marijuana and smoked. He related there was no other high like it in the world. This same suspect related that he had taken ecstasy and had developed medical problems so severe that flesh was literally rotting from his face and falling off. The suspect showed the scars and disfiguration about the face to prove it. The Ketamine was particular in this matter because there had been a recent burglary of a Georgetown area Veterinarian during which 180 vials of Ketamine were taken. It is believed that the Ketamine was sold on the streets as "Special K". The young man of whom I previously spoke, was stopped in Arkansas, returning to Delaware with over 90 bottles of Ketamine.
In 1999, during the interview of an informant, I was told that MDMA, along with other drugs, is being manufactured in the Chemistry Labs of prominent colleges and universities. Many of the ingredients can be purchased on the internet, and processed in the laboratory. They are then transported to, or offered for sale at, the RAVE dances. A young pizza delivery man told us that during a delivery to a residence at a beach community, he observed five gallon buckets full of pills which he was told was ecstasy. He was then invited to try some of the pills.
A young man in Milford told us that it was not uncommon for Milford teens to travel as far as 75-100 miles to attend a RAVE in Baltimore. While he was there, he would purchase ecstasy at a "wholesale" price, and sell it in Milford for a profit. This same young man was purchasing a designer drug in Salisbury MD. The investigation revealed that the drugs were being purchased on the internet. Using a chemistry book (available at any book store or library), these young men manufactured a drug similar in make-up to Heroin. The contents of the pill were all "street legal". One teen who had tried the pills reported being so "wound up" that he didn’t sleep for 2 days, and suffered from anxiety attacks, and paranoia. He also added that it was "cool".
The DEA Dover Task Force, along with Milford Police, Delmar Police and Salisbury MD Police investigated this complaint. An undercover purchase of the pills took place, and resulted in the arrest of 2 young adult males from Salisbury. A search warrant executed on a residence was peculiar. Gone was the run down neighborhoods infested by Crack Cocaine. We found ourselves in a nice, scenic neighborhood overlooking a river near Salisbury. Evidence of a lab was recovered from the basement of the residence and the suspect was charged with possession of ecstasy and related charges. This young man had, in his makeshift lab, a basic chemistry book. The book, coupled with information available on the internet made it possible for him to order supplies, manufacture doses, and determine the amounts of ingredients to put into various pills to achieve the desired effect. Many of the ingredients used in these pills were commonly found in over the counter medications.
Through my personal experience with the investigation of these crimes, I have learned that a sub culture exists within these young people. Specific colors, brands of clothing, jewelry, and clothing styles all represent the person as one looking to get high or one looking to sell drugs. For example, the color yellow at a specific rave may indicate a person who is selling ecstasy. The color purple may represent one selling marijuana, and so on. A person wearing a different color exemplifies one looking for a specific substance. The colors change from RAVE to RAVE, and much of the information is communicated by an underground society on the internet. Messages in code are commonly applied to book bags with colorful vinyl paint. While the message has little meaning to a parent or law enforcement officer, it identifies the person as a seller, user, or buyer, as well as the type of drug involved. As you can see, it is increasingly difficult to investigate and penetrate these organizations. Many of the officers investigating drug crime are well into their twenties, and are unable to associate in this society of young adults.
This growing society is being catered to by media, clothing manufacturers, and performing artists who tailor their media or products to these kids in the search of a profit. Popular shoe manufacturers are making shoes which are advertised with a secret compartment for which to store a key or money. Conveniently they also hold several pills, or a small bag of marijuana. Manufacturers of pants are commonly sewing in secret compartments in which can be stored pills, money, or small bags of marijuana. These compartments are commonly sewn in near the crotch area, an area of which most law enforcement officers are sensitive about searching. The compartments allow the drugs to be concealed, or smuggled into the RAVE dances.
The problem is huge and widespread. The solution will be complicated. If action is not taken soon, we risk the loss of the next generation of leaders for our communities as well as our nation.