Mesa police crack downon designer drug users

MESA, Ariz.

"We're taking a proactive approach and jumping on it," said Dan Saban, commander of the Mesa police narcotics unit, who said the use of the drugs has developed into an epidemic.

As part of a multi-prong crackdown, Saban also said the department is coordinating with other police departments to make sure it doesn't, for example, chase ecstasy dealers into Phoenix or vice versa.

It's also making sure its field officers, especially those who control traffic, recognize some of the unusual symptoms of users, such as extreme dehydration, because these drugs can hinder driving skills.

He said traffic control officers were among the first in the Mesa Police Department to spot problems when they began noticing impaired drivers who didn't smell of alcohol.

Drugs like ecstasy were originally prescribed by psychiatrists to loosen inhibitions. "They make you mellow and uninhibited and share your thoughts and emotions. That's why they call it the love drug," Saban said.

Unfortunately, they also loosen self-discipline.

"It's just amazing how motor skills have been impeded. Their thought processes have been diminished. Maybe you wouldn't normally run a red light and now you don't care," Saban said.

The Police Department became aware of the drugs about a year ago, but they were spotlighted in February when former organized crime hitman Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano was accused of leading a large ecstasy syndicate with more than 40 members that included members of his Tempe family and the Gilbert-based Devil Dogs gang. Gravano and many others are awaiting trial.

But the arrests didn't slow down the distribution of the drugs, Saban said.

He declined to say how the crackdown is proceeding but expects to report results to the Mesa City Council in six months.

(iSyndicate; The Arizona Republic; Nov. 10, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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