LJWorld.com weblogs Dispatches from the Academy
Day three: Gangs, gun and peyote
Last night, my fellow Citizen's Academy attendees were able to visit a place very few people ever step foot in: the Lawrence Police Department's evidence room, tucked away above the county's courtrooms.
It wasn't what we saw that initially caught our attention. The second you enter, the pungent smell of marijuana hits the nose, a by-product of all the drugs confiscated and later stored by local law enforcement.
As the LPD's two evidence room officers talked to us, we were sandwiched between old rifles, nefarious-looking duffle bags and huge flat screen televisions. By necessity, the officers have gotten a little creative with the 55,000 square feet they have, which used to be a basketball court when the building housed the jail. Plywood planks littered the rafters, stacked with old evidence that officers just can't yet dispose of, in case of appeals.
I'd love to show you, but sorry, no photos allowed in the evidence room.
The rest of the night we were treated to presentations about drugs and street gangs.
Some of the more interesting tidbits we picked up:
• The Kansas Drug Tax Stamp: For forward-thinking drug dealers, Kansas offers drug tax stamps, allowing those who profit from the illegal drug trade to pay taxes on their sales. It sounds a little bizarre that someone would stop by a state office, admit to being a drug dealer, and then agree to pay taxes on their criminal enterprise. Here's a little explainer from the Kansas Department of Revenue.
• Buyer beware: Aided by its white, powdery appearance, it's not uncommon for drug dealers to dilute cocaine before distribution. It's referred to as "stepping on it," and basically includes drug dealers adding in other substances to cocaine to add weight and make the most of the substance, sales-wise. One common ingredient? Niacin, which has a similar appearance as powdered cocaine. The internet is filled with formulas for how this is done. Officers told us that this is often done at various stages, leaving the buyer with a watered-down substance, or "stepped on" product.
• Funniest quote from Officer Shannon Riggs, who's been involved in the LPD's drug unit: When discussing "tips" police receive about illegal drugs, offered that they come from a variety of sources, "including angry spouses."
• While it's not like Kansas City, or even Topeka, police do see gang activity in Lawrence. Police monitor such activity in a variety of ways, such as spotting and identifying gang graffiti. Though a few years ago, one prominent example, highlighted by veteran LPD Det. Mike McAtee, was the 1997 killing of David Eugene Walker by Lafayette Cosby, a case McAtee worked. Searching the LJWorld archives also found this 1996 gang-related shooting in Lawrence.