The Pinehurst City Council met Tuesday, May 24, to adopt an ordinance that essentially banned the possession, sale or ingestion of certain substances – in particular, substances that are marked as K2, “bath salts,” drinks that contain synthesized versions of cocaine and marijuana, and the like.
According to Pinehurst Police Chief Fred Hanauer, these substances have been a bane in the harmony of the city, and the nuisance is only escalating.
“I’d say that these substances are a major problem for our city at this time,” Hanauer said. “They make people do crazy things.”
The substances targeted by the ordinance include salvia (divinorum or Salvinorum A), the chemical commonly known as synthetic marijuana (HU-210), Spice or K2 (JWH-018 or JWH-073), synthetic amphetamine (BZP), “Legal Ecstasy” (TFMPP), synthetic cocaine (MDPV), and all contraband that utilizes the substances’ properties for use by consumers. The ordinance further states that “any similar substance which when inhaled or otherwise ingested produce intoxication, stupefaction, giddiness, paralysis, irrational behavior or in any manner, changes, distorts, or disturbs the auditory, visual, or mental process and the product or substance has no other legitimate purpose for consumers” is also prohibited.
The violation for prohibiting the ordinance is a misdemeanor offense. At the time the ordinance was enacted, Hanauer said he only knew of one outlet in violation. According to him, that location is the Valero on Martin Street. All the substances banned by the city officials (and more not on the list) were found behind the counter at that location, and the police chief was easily able to obtain multiple forms of the substances from the convenience store.
“It is disturbing that they would even sell it at all, whether or not it was behind the counter,” he said. “It is clear what those products are being used for.”
When taken into the body, these substances produce a wide range of effects on its users, Hanauer said. It is his position the abusers of these substances are no less a danger to themselves, or others, as those that use the illicit versions of the designer drugs.
Hanauer said crime within the city of Pinehurst has increased exponentially within the last 10 years, upwards of 500 percent, and now is the time for officials to look into ways to curb the epidemic.
Over a recent two-week span of calls to the Pinehurst Police Department, the influx of crime is detailed. Among calls for service to the agency were instances of theft, assault and criminal mischief. Peppered in the caseload were instances of prowling and trespassing, as well as larceny, disorderly conduct and public intoxication. Violent offenses were also reported, including complaints of a son assaulting his father with a weapon during a spat over a vehicle and that of an altercation which led to 84-year-old Larry Larkin’s aggravated assault arrest.
In a nearby neighborhood located within the city limits of Orange, one man was taken into custody by city officers while allegedly high on “bath salts” and firing a shotgun from inside his apartment. A report filed at the Orange Police Department alleges the 23-year-old man “appeared to be intoxicated on some unknown type of alcohol or drug.” Police report the suspect confirmed he had taken bath salts before officers arrived. The substance, contained in a small vial labeling it as bath salts, was also recovered from next to the suspect’s wallet when officers searched the residence.
Additional items taken from the suspect’s residence included a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun, and several spent shells. From witness testimony, and statements from the suspect, officers believed the suspect to have been firing at “unseen,” “unknown persons” the hallucinating shooter thought were in the apartment. Some of the shots penetrated the walls leading to adjacent residences, and shattered through windows, which led to a bustling apartment common centre.
The suspect was taken into custody for a weapons offense, committed while recklessly discharging a weapon, police contend, but no punishment will be assessed for the chemically-induced disorientation that allegedly led to the infraction in the first place. Even with an ordinance in place within the city of Pinehurst, Class C misdemeanor offenses in Texas are typically only punishable by a fine not to exceed $500, the same penalty for smoking in the city hall building. When accepting the ordinance, Pinehurst Mayor T.W. Permenter questioned if more could be done to deter use of the substances.
“Is this even strong enough to do what we want it to,” he pondered aloud, apparently only to himself, before accepting the measure into the city’s ordinance.
And while enforcing the city’s ordinance may not produce any arrests, Hanauer offered information that policing the aftermath of citizens abusing the substances had been laborious. His solution would be to add an additional officer to the force along with the new ordinance. Hanauer said he is applying for a COPS grant through the U.S Department of Justice to hire one additional police officer, a grant that will pay the salary for the new position for three years. The only stipulation, he said, is that the city will need to keep the officer on the payroll at a cost to the municipality for one year afterward. That unbudgeted $78,000 became a contention within the city council, with representative Dan Barclay voicing the dissenting vote citing an already over-spent budget as reason enough to forego adding personnel. The council did opt to allow Hanauer permission to apply for the grant, and will consider accepting the funding award should the police chief be able to provide a manner in which the city could come up with the funds necessary to facilitate the added officer during year four of the grant agreement.