HIGH RANKING: University leads state in drug arrests

News Reporter

Not only are Bobcats being busted for drug possession more than any other students in the state, but the university is also ranked in the top 20 in the nation for campus drug arrests, according to a recent study.

Rehabs.com, a website that aims to provide professional medical help for people who struggle with substance abuse problems, found Texas State to have the most campus drug arrests in the state. The study ranks Texas State 16th in the country for drug arrests, the only school in the state to place in the top 50.

The site’s researchers recorded Texas State as having approximately 7.5 drug arrests per thousand students in 2011, the most recent year that statistics were available.

Ranking second and third in the state are UTSA and the University of Texas at Austin with an estimated 4.58 and 1.5 drug arrests per thousand students respectively in 2011, according to the study. The State University of New York Oneonta took the number one spot, having about 13.61 arrests per thousand students. The University of Colorado at Boulder had the second highest number of arrests in the nation with an estimated 13.57 per thousand.

Jon Millward, lead researcher in the study, said the data is gathered from college crime statistics distributed by the Office of Postsecondary Education, a branch of the Department of Education. The apparently high number alcohol or drug crimes in some colleges could be due to stricter law enforcement on campuses, Millward said.

“The more you catch, the more it appears you have, whereas a really druggy or boozy college that does nothing to police its campus might appear to have a clean crime record,” Millward said.

An interesting point to consider is the database does not specify which types of drugs were involved in the arrests, Millward said.

“50 marijuana arrests aren’t equivalent in any sense to 50 heroin arrests,” Millward said. “This is one of the many reasons the results need to be interpreted with caution and ideally seen as an extra reference point in the drug debate as opposed to the final word on the matter.”

Daniel Benitez, University Police Department captain, said Texas State is transparent with arrest information by making it available online.

“I haven’t seen this (Rehabs.com) research, so I’m not sure of where they got their information and what their numbers are, but we do have a database online that includes all the incidents with UPD,” Benitez said.

Possession of any illegal drug is grounds for an arrest, Benitez said.

“Any usable amount of any drug is punishable by law, so if a student has a small amount of marijuana or a prescription pill that isn’t theirs, we have the right to arrest them,” Benitez said.

UPD can arrest offenders based on certain criteria, Benitez said. There is a small list of Class B misdemeanors, including drug possession, that can only be punished by a citation, he said.

“But that student must be a resident of Hays County for us to issue a citation instead of an arrest,” Benitez said. “We have a lot of students that come from all over the state, so if a student is from Austin or New Braunfels, then they’re not a resident of Hays County and we have to arrest them if they have drugs in their possession.”

Police officers may not arrest a student if they believe the drugs in question do not belong to the student, Benitez said.
“If the officer uses his best judgment to conclude that the drugs are someone else’s, he can let that person go,” Benitez said. “But usually, if someone has drugs on them, it really does belong to them.”

Any drug charge higher than a Class C misdemeanor is handled at the Hays County Court, said City Prosecutor Douglas Montgomery. A student who is arrested for marijuana tends to also have paraphernalia in their possession, he said.

“Every case is different, but the county court decides whether or not to charge them with possession, and from there I decide whether or not to charge them with drug paraphernalia,” Montgomery said.

Students should consider how being charged could affect their university careers, Montgomery said.

“Something to consider is that if a student is charged with drug possession, they could possibly lose their financial aid,” Montgomery said.