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GGC ranked No. 19 for drug arrests; officials say study lacked context

A new study ranks Georgia Gwinnett College at No. 19 in the country for most on-campus drug arrests per 1,000 students. (Source: Rehabs.com)

A new study ranks Georgia Gwinnett College at No. 19 in the country for most on-campus drug arrests per 1,000 students. (Source: Rehabs.com)

LAWRENCEVILLE — A new report ranks Georgia Gwinnett College as one of the nation’s “druggiest” institutions of higher learning. Schools officials, though, contend that the study is merely blowing smoke.

The recently released project by Rehabs.com went through federal crime statistics reported by more than 7,000 colleges and universities across the country. Among other areas of focus, it highlighted the top 50 schools for “most on-campus drug arrests per 1,000 students.”

Georgia Gwinnett College, located just off Ga. Highway 316 in Lawrenceville, ranked No. 19.

GGC Director of Public Safety Terrance Schneider didn’t deny the numbers used in the study: his police department charted 58 drug arrests in 2011, a significant number when compared with that year’s fall enrollment of 7,742.

“That’s all well and good,” Schneider said, “except they only used one year.”

The deeper issue is the particular year they chose — a year that just so happened to be the first year GGC had a full fleet of resident dorms open on campus.

Schneider said his department saw the implications of that creeping in early on and had to be proactive. Reports of drug dealers making their way onto school property became common. It was crackdown time.

“When you have a new school, a brand new police department, people see that as an opportunity,” Schneider said. “The wrong people see that as an opportunity.”

Of the 58 drug-related arrests made on GGC campus in 2011, 31 were non-students. Schneider — who has a history including stints with the U.S. Army military police, a major law enforcement accrediting organization and at Jacksonville State University — said the spike in arrests was more the sign of success than failure.

The college launched education programs and interdiction efforts aimed at patrolling its vast parking lots. Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Lawrenceville Police Department, they also got help from a narcotic-sniffing chocolate lab named Ginger.

“These people saw (GGC students) as easy marks and they wanted to establish territory,” Schneider said. “And we shut them down. … We didn’t expect it in that volume, but we are close to the Atlanta area and I think the people in those areas saw us as an easy mark.

“But they learned real quick it wasn’t,” he continued, “because we took them to jail.”

GGC reported 34 drug-related arrests in 2012 and just 17 in 2013.