Monday, October 29, 2007

Officials say paraphernalia law is working

This is a repost from today's Wichita Eagle Newspaper dealing with the new Kansas Drug Paraphernalia Law. The law was a part of the Wichita Branch NAACP's "Broken Windows" Campaign, designed to deal with quality of life issues affecting our community. The bill was written by the Wichita Branch NAACP, the Methamphetamine prevention project, and the KBI. It was introduced into the legislature last session by Representative (and Branch Member) Oletha Faust-Goodeau. It was signed by the Governor and tool the force of law just this Summer and it has already resulted in the removal of drug paraphernalia (crack and meth pipes) from all retail outlets in the city of Wichita.
In fact, just last month, the WPD raided the KC gas station that I'd blogged about here, and seized 3,000 pieces of paraphernalia.

The Wichita Eagle

A new law that targets the sale of drug paraphernalia is doing what proponents had hoped it would: getting glass pipes and other gadgets used for smoking illegal drugs off convenience store counters, officials say.

"I don't see it anywhere now," Kevin Myles, president of the Wichita chapter of the NAACP, said Friday of paraphernalia. His group was instrumental in getting the law, which went into effect in July, passed. Myles and other members of the NAACP initially identified 13 stores in Wichita where paraphernalia was openly sold.

Months later, Myles says, none of those stores are selling such products. Members of the NAACP have been monitoring stores in the area since the law took effect. "There's one I'm not 100 percent about," Myles said. "The owner has removed it before by putting it back behind the shelves."

So far, Myles is happy with the law's results. So is Rep. Oletha Faust-Goudeau. She said a convenience store in Topeka near the state Capitol no longer is selling paraphernalia and neither is a Wichita store near 25th and Hillside. "People seem to be getting the message," she said.

First arrests under law
Earlier this month, Wichita police arrested two men at the KC Gas & Groceries convenience store who they say were knowingly selling pipes for smoking crack cocaine and methamphetamine.
That case has not yet been presented by police to the Sedgwick County district attorney's office but is scheduled to be, said Capt. Ken Atnip. The case would include felony charges because the store, at Seneca and Maple, is within 1,000 feet of Allison Middle School.

Atnip said police are not interested in hassling business owners but hope the new law will be a tool to help keep drugs off the streets.

At least 45 states have laws on the books regarding drug paraphernalia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Before Kansas' new law, police had to find residue on pipes and other paraphernalia to arrest someone for possession of paraphernalia or prove that the person intended to use the products illegally.

During meetings in Topeka about the new law, two Wichita store owners who sell pipes and other smoking instruments testified that their goods were for tobacco. But Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said in an earlier Eagle story, "Never in 25 years of policing have I found someone smoking tobacco out of a bong."

David Nelson, the lawyer for the owner and manager of KC Gas & Groceries, said neither he nor his clients had any comment about the pending case. He said he was waiting to see more documentation in the case.

A matter of education
Police have not made any other arrests under the new law. The KC Gas & Groceries case was similar to arrests in other jurisdictions. Across the nation, police have been using such laws to try to make a dent in drug use and drug-related crimes. Officers may issue warnings in some cases to people unaware of the new law, Atnip said. "There are people who need to be educated" and then people who know they are flouting the law, he said. "We are not in the business of surprising people," Stolz said. Part of police work, he said, is educating people about new laws and ordinances.

Atnip said he had received calls from store owners who wanted clarification about the new law.
"If you suspect that's what the material is being used for, you probably shouldn't be selling it," Atnip said.

Wichita residents who see paraphernalia at stores should call police, Atnip said.

© 2007 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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