Michigan State Drug Arrests Increase Dramatically in 2014
"Dustyn Frolka let the Michigan State University police officers into his Emmons Hall dorm room.
That’s how they found the digital scale, the bag of blue and orange pills, the black box filled with money and a glass bong and THC dabs, which are doses of cannabis concentrates.
He tried to hide the cocaine, though. When Officer Andrew Rathbun asked the 19-year-old what he’d stuffed down his pants, Frolka said, [']It’s what you are looking for,['] according reports on the Jan. 31 arrest.
Then he started to cry.
The arrest, set in motion by an anonymous tip, proved to be the beginning of the end.
Frolka was kicked out of his dorm the next day [']for actions deemed a threat to the safety of fellow students.['] Two weeks later, Frolka was killed during a robbery allegedly involving three Saline teenagers, which appears to have been drug-related. He jumped from a speeding SUV to avoid being beaten, one of the teens said.
Between 2010 and 2012, Michigan State University reported a 158 percent increase in drug arrests. The on-campus totals went from 101 to 261 during that time frame, according to an annual university security report.
University officials say MSU doesn’t have a problem with drugs on campus, at least not a bigger one than other universities.
But in 2012, the most recent year for which comparable numbers are available, it did have far more drug arrests than any other university in the state, 31 percent more than the University of Michigan.
Even on a per-student basis, it outpaces other schools, and none of the state’s other public universities saw a sharper increase between 2010 and 2012.
Drugs also seem to have played a role in the killing of a second MSU student this year. Dominique Nolff, also a sophomore, was shot and killed in January.
Court transcripts say a prison parolee went to his apartment, about a block from campus, to steal medical marijuana.
Enforcement Not Up
The reason or reasons for the increase in drug arrests are not clear.
MSU police said that they are not stepping up enforcement and that the overwhelming majority of cases involve marijuana.
Police spokeswoman Florene McGlothian-Taylor said more students have been willing to report the use of marijuana to police.
[']More dorm residents are calling in the smell of marijuana — that is, making calls to us,['] McGlothian-Taylor said.
McGlothian-Taylor also said traffic stops play a role. She said those don’t necessarily involve students.
[']We get individuals coming through campus who aren’t students,['] she said, [']trying to avoid the main roads.[']
Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said he’s not surprised by the increase.
He believes the state’s medical marijuana law, enacted in December 2008, has impacted behavior.
[']It’s got people thinking (smoking marijuana) is just OK,['] he said.
Alex Passanesi hadn’t been smoking marijuana the night MSU police arrested him.
It was the last day of February, the Friday before spring break.
He was in his dorm room in Snyder-Phillips Hall, playing guitar with the door open.
Three officers just walked into his room, he said. After he insisted on talking out in the hall, they ordered him to sit down and wait. They came back with a dog. They searched his room.
[']They were trying to say, ‘Oh, well. Maybe you’ve just got a bowl in there and a few grams. Let’s just find it and get it taken care of and call it a day,’In the end, police found marijuana, LSD and other drugs. he said. They make it seem like it’s not a big deal. They’re very intimidating or at least they try to be.
In the end, police found marijuana, LSD and other drugs.
Passanesi spent his spring break and a few days afterward in the Ingham County Jail. When he got out, he had to find another place to live.
He still believes the search was unwarranted. Officers had come to his room on two previous occasions.
[']I guess I could look like a hippie,['] he said. [']I’ve got a bunch of psychedelic and Buddha posters on my door and black lights and classic rock music playing from my room all the time. I feel like I was profiled and judged.[']
He said marijuana is common on campus, that it seems like the majority of students use it at least occasionally.
[']I don’t think they’re using it in their dorms,['] he said, [']but they’re possessing it and they’re using it at parties.[']
According to MSU’s own data, collected anonymously, most students never have tried the drug, but the number of those who have and who say they used it often has increased since the medical marijuana law was passed.
It’s not clear that the increases are enough to fully explain the rising number of arrests.
Change In Reported Use
In 2010, one in six MSU students said they had used marijuana in the past month, about half of those on six or more days in the past month, according to data collected as part of the university’s participation in the National College Health Assessment Survey.
In 2012, the number saying they had smoked or ingested the drug in the previous month was nearly one in five. One in 10 said they’d done so on six days or more.
In the same period, the percentage saying they’d never used at all declined from 61 percent to 58.5.
The data don’t differentiate between marijuana prescribed by a doctor and marijuana used illegally.
[']There was a blip up from 2010 to 2012, which was concerning to us,['] said Dennis Martell, health education coordinator for Olin Student Health Center, though preliminary 2014 data show the numbers leveling off.
In effect, MSU went from levels of marijuana use that were a bit below the national average for college students to a bit above, though still within the survey’s margin of error.
At the same time, self-reported use of most other illegal drugs was declining, though MDMA, often called Molly or Ecstasy, was an exception.
[']What’s different about marijuana use is the perception,['] Martell said, both the perception among students that more or less everyone else is doing it and the perception that it’s basically harmless.
[']Most of the conversation about marijuana these days is about medical use or decriminalizing or legalizing,[']Martell said. [']I can tell you that most students don’t perceive marijuana as harmful. They just don’t.[']
But, if anything, marijuana is treated more strictly on campus than off.
Marijuana isn’t allowed at MSU, even for students who have medical marijuana cards, a policy based on federal rather than state law.
Between 2010 and 2012, MSU graduate Lilly Keyes lived in Snyder-Phillips Hall, home of MSU’s Residential College for Arts and Humanities.
She said there were a handful of times when the smell of marijuana was noticeable in the dorm, but it was never a [']huge issue.[']
She can’t see her fellow students calling the police about a floormate’s marijuana use.
[']If anybody heard about it or smelled it, they would have told their RA.[']
As it happens, dorm residents [']calling in the smell of marijuana,['] or even telling resident assistants, who would be expected to call the police, can’t account for most of the increase in arrests.
Of the 261 drug arrests on campus in 2012, just 106 occurred in the residence halls, which is more than double the number from 2010, but still just a fraction of the increase. They’re a factor nonetheless.
[']I think our staff is doing a better job, and I think we’re empowering our students to report,['] said Kathy Collins, MSU’s director of Campus Living Services and Residence Life.
The university also is placing more police officers in the residence halls.
Its community policing program began before Collins came to MSU at the start of 2012, but during her time officers have been assigned specifically to the Brody Complex and the older residence halls on the north end of campus known collectively as the North Neighborhood.
Attorney Mike Nichols, who has represented numerous MSU students charged with drug crimes, said he believes MSU and East Lansing police in recent years have been targeting people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs. That could explain some of the increase in drug arrests.
[']Overall, there’s a major emphasis on drugged-driving,['] he said.
But alcohol-related arrests are decreasing, Nichols said, and law enforcement agencies [']need to find a supplement.[']"