Guam – Many of the island’s violent crimes, according to the 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, are linked to drugs, alcohol abuse, the lack of economic opportunities and educational attainment.
Sadly, like most states in the US, getting your hands on drugs is not difficult and over the years getting your hands on ice has become even easier.
Crystal methamphetamine or ice has ravaged the island for years, making it the number one drug threat to the island. But just how bad is the problem?
According to the NDTA, 4.5 percent of high school students on Guam have reported smoking ice in their lifetime; the national average is 3 percent.
The Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans reported that $140 million in drugs were seized on Guam from 2011 to early 2017.
The 2017 NDTA highlights three major ice seizures in 2016. The first was in February when United States Postal Inspector Services and the DEA seized 30 pounds of ice reportedly brought in by two gang members. In August 400 grams of ice were seized by the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency. In November, a third seizure of 28 pounds was made through a controlled buy by the DEA and USPIS.
Subsequently, $1 million was seized in bank accounts and safety deposit boxes. These numbers reflect the amount of drugs law enforcement agencies have kept off the streets, it is not a reflection of how much ice is circulating the island.
But what may provide insight on just how prevalent ice has become is the cost of the drug. While the NDTA says the price of meth is between $350 to $500 a gram, reports indicate that it’s been sold for as little as $200 a gram.
Even more telling is the number of small time drug dealers who have been charged with possession of a schedule two controlled substance with intent to deliver over the last three years. In 2015, 23 individuals were charged; 53 in 2016; and 63 in 2017. Those numbers show that drug dealers–at least those who have been caught–more than doubled in a span of one year alone.
Superior Court of Guam Public Information Officer Shawn Gumataotato emphasizes, however, that these numbers represent charges that were made and not necessarily court cases.
Adult Drug Court Judge Vern Perez had previously shared with PNC his observations on the prevalence of drugs on island.
“In the last three years, we have recognized an increase in new drug cases, new felony drug possession and above cases for schedule two controlled substances in particular, and, well, that’s certainly concerning. More than 200 case in 2015 and we hadn’t seen those numbers [before],” said Perez.
Drug case filings for this same period were:
- 2015: 204 Criminal Felonies
- 2016: 209 Criminal Felonies
- 2017: 176 Criminal Felonies
Again, these numbers only reflect the number of individuals charged at the local level, it does not take into account the number of dealers charged or the number of cases that have been charged in the federal court.