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Enforcement Youth Commit Theft For Meth Hits

Teenage girls barely old enough to need training bras are targets - and victims - of crystal meth dealers.

It's because body-conscious girls as young as 13 are easily suckered into using the highly addictive street drug known as an appetite suppressant, says Mark McLaughlin, founder and president of the Crystal Meth Victoria Society.

"On the street one of the most common new customers are young girls between 13-14," he said.

"They are targeted because of body image concerns - ( it's ) a way to lose weight."

The pushers "prey on young girls, hoping to manipulate and control them" into becoming not only customers, but prostitutes or members of juvenile theft rings, said McLaughlin.

Addicted youngsters are sent to steal goods for which they are paid in crystal meth, he said.

It's a trap made more challenging because the federal young offender section of the federal Criminal Code renders the judicial system powerless to affect change, he added.

If caught, the teenagers don't suffer any consequences because of what he calls the "catch and release concept" which lets young offenders off.

Adult ringleaders are rarely fingered by their teen victims and also get off "home free."

Teenage crystal meth addicts experience addiction-caused erratic and often-violent behavior that results in them getting thrown out of home and school, he said.

Even when the teens hit legal adult age, McLaughlin said, the courts let them down because the reason for criminal activity - to buy crystal meth - isn't mentioned during court appearances. He thinks it would be useful to state the reason for criminal behavior so the appropriate treatment can be offered to help.

"Right now, nobody knows and no offer of treatment can be made," said McLaughlin, who recently won an award from Volunteer Vancouver recognizing the work of the society and a SD 61 Community Task Force on Meth. Society volunteer Nancy Pearson also won a Woman of Distinction award for her work as the group's media relations officer.

A task force survey of inmates at the local provincial jail in Saanich, the juvenile detention facility and those booked into police cells last year showed just how bad the crystal meth problem is.

The prisoner intake surveys showed 48 per cent of youth and 62 per cent of adult prisoners use crystal meth.

Fourteen per cent of youngsters and 42 per cent of adults said they committed crimes to support their addiction, with 16 per cent of youth and 56 per cent of adults committing crimes while high.

An informal survey of youth workers found that up to 85 per cent of workers' clients use crystal meth.

The surveys found that teen and adult crystal meth users agreed on what might help them stay away from the drug: counseling, treatment and positive social influences such as family and friends. The youngsters also cited leaving Victoria as a factor in recovery.

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Crystal Meth SocietyEnforcement