By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Fitch High School students looking to buy drugs don't have to go much farther than the school parking lot, according to a township police officer.
"The whole high school arena is wide open. ... It's like a shopping list of drugs you want," said Jeff Solic, who serves on the Problem Oriented Policing unit and works part time in the schools.
Yet Fitch High Principal Doug McGlynn said most of his students don't want to buy illegal drugs. Mc Glynn estimates that 99 percent of his 1,800 students avoid them.
Solic helped arrest three juveniles and an adult Friday on charges of selling Ecstasy.
Two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old are Fitch students. The 18-year-old had been expelled from Fitch.
Two more 17-year-olds, one from Austintown and one from Beloit in southwestern Mahoning County, were arrested Monday evening on related charges.
Pending charges: The juvenile prosecutor's office didn't know when charges would be filed against any of the teens. Pending charges are trafficking within 1,000 feet of a school zone and complicity to trafficking, authorities said.
The arrests were the result of a two-month investigation by the POP unit, during which an undercover police officer bought about 16 doses of Ecstasy within 1,000 feet of the school. Each dose cost between $20 and $25.
More arrests are expected, according to the police department.
McGlynn and Superintendent Richard Denamen said the four do not represent the typical Fitch student, that the school's anti-drug program discourages most students from using illegal substances.
Denamen said Solic shouldn't "throw stones" by saying that so many drugs are available at Fitch.
"If you're in law enforcement, and that's the fact, then make more arrests," he said.
Anti-drug efforts: The school's anti-drug efforts include monthly sweeps by drug-sniffing dogs, random drug testing for athletes and speeches by criminals convicted of drug offenses.
"We try to do a variety of things to deter that, there's no doubt," McGlynn said.
Solic said he wouldn't describe the situation as a drug ring. Instead, it's young people with money looking to experiment.
Solic said some students are selling prescription drugs like Ritalin and Vicodin, while others are dealing marijuana and Ecstasy.
He said the students get the prescription drugs from their home medicine cabinets. Ecstasy, he said, can be purchased from several locations in the suburbs.
Many of the deals are arranged in the Fitch hallways late in the week, as the students prepare for weekend parties, Solic said. The transactions often occur in the school parking lot or nearby.
Few details offered: Solic wouldn't go into much detail about the investigation. He noted that Fitch officials provided some information that led to the arrests, and police and school officials "have an excellent relationship."
The four arrested in this case so far aren't the only suburban high-school-age suspects in drug cases this year.
Several Poland Seminary High School students have been charged with selling marijuana and the prescription drugs Xanax and OxyContin.
Solic said parents should learn to recognize the signs of drug use in children, such as a sudden drop in grades, sudden increase in money and a change in friendships.
Solic also stressed that parents have the right to search their children's rooms.