Public Safety

Tipping the Scale to Get People Back on Track

A man caught violating the terms of his probation Wednesday night as part of a multiagency operation could have gone to jail, but instead he agreed to go straight into a drug treatment program. If he is successful in his treatment, he illustrates the goals of the operation.

Law enforcement, including Sheriff’s deputies and County Probation officers, arrested 63 people, half of them for drug violations, as part of a “Tip the Scale” operation. The sweeps target drug offenders. Drug counselors and treatment specialists join law enforcement to bring a balanced and proven approach to breaking the cycle of drug crimes.

“We know that drugs are fuel for crime like property crimes and violent crimes which directly impact San Diego County residents,” said Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris May. “We want to ensure probationers and parolees are meeting their commitments to stay clear of drugs. And we want to give local families the resources they need to cope with their loved one’s problems with drug and alcohol addiction.”

Of those arrested, 24 also spoke with a drug treatment counselor, who can help an offender get back on track. Counselors also handed out 100 resource packets to offenders and their families.

“It’s not just about arresting them. It’s about holding them accountable but it’s also about getting them treatment and the follow-up and the resources and support to help them,” said Supervising Probation Officer Jason Druxman. “If we don’t offer them treatment, then the cycle just continues. It’s detrimental to the community if we don’t try to resolve the problem as opposed to just putting a Band-Aid on it and throwing them in jail.”

The man who went directly into treatment was a probationer who agreed to talk with a drug treatment counselor, said Druxman. The man told the counselor he was willing to go directly to a detox center and then a drug treatment facility. Druxman said candidates for drug treatment must meet certain criteria, one of which is that the offender is not considered dangerous.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department led the compliance check in known hot-spots for drug use and drug-related crime with the assistance of more than 200 law enforcement and drug treatment professionals. Spring Valley, Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and the City of San Diego were targeted

In Wednesday’s operation, 38 were felony arrests, 23 were misdemeanor arrests, 31 were drug-related arrests, and 15 were warrant arrests.

Druxman noted that teams also  rewarded those who were in compliance. Those who had not violated their court terms were given $10 grocery store gift cards, he said. Criminal justice research shows such small incentives can be key in keeping offenders on the right track.

Drug addiction and drug-fueled crime are huge problems that cross city and county lines. In 2011, there were more than 5,000 meth-related arrests and 171 meth-related deaths across the county.

More than 20 agencies worked together in the joint operation including the San Diego County probation officers.

Other agencies participating were Health and Human Services Agency, San Diego County Child Welfare Services/Drug Endangered Children Program, San Diego County Police Department, La Mesa Police Department, El Cajon Police Department, Chula Vista Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force, Border Crime Suppression Team, East County Gang Task Force, Methamphetamine Strike Force, SAY San Diego, The Institute for Public Strategies, The Palavra Tree, and Metro Transit System.

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department joined with other agencies to hold the first Tip the Scale operation 2009. Since then, 13 Tip the Scale Operations have been held in various San Diego County communities. In those operations, officers have made 425 arrests and 208 drug treatment referrals. Drug treatment information packets were also left with 636 people including family members of offenders.

Residents who want to report meth-related crimes or learn about treatment options are urged to call 1-877-NO-2-METH or go online at www.no2meth.org.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact