While Overall Juvenile Crime Falls in Northern Ohio, Heroin Use Surges

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Photo by Clay Duda

Officials in northern Ohio are seeing what they describe as an epidemic of drug use and offenses by juveniles.

In Geauga County, in northeast Ohio, drug charges increased by 38.8 percent, and felony drug charges increased by 180 percent, according to the local juvenile court's 2010 annual report.

The main drug being used is marijuana, while heroin is making a comeback, the report says.

Underage drinking cases in Geauga County have been the main reason children came to court in 16 of the last 18 years, but the cases are down this year, according to the News-Herald, a daily located in Willoughby east of Cleveland.

Officials attribute the increase in charges to crime enforcement efforts being made by a new judge. Some parents also say additional random drug screens and other efforts are saving their children.

While drug charges continue to skyrocket, overall crime has seen a significant reduction — a 17 percent difference between 2009 and 2010 — despite reductions in the court’s budget.

“What I think we have going on here is the word has gotten out that if you're a juvenile and you break the law, there are going to be serious consequences for it. The judge has been very public in talking about crime and truancy prevention,” Magistrate Jason Wuliger said.

JJIE recently reported that heroin was once seen only as a hardcore drug plaguing inner cities, but it has found new life as a drug of convenience for suburban teenagers.

Overall, heroin use is not increasing. A White House Office of National Drug Control Policy report showed heroin use among high school kids nationally drop from 3.3 percent in 2003 to 1.3 percent in 2008, but the demographic of juveniles using the drug is shifting.

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