Our View: Raising awareness about a serious subject
July 22, 2014
This past week, a woman contacted us directly after reading an article the Steamboat Pilot & Today published on July 16 titled, "Police still offering drug detection kits." The young woman told us about being victimized by someone using a date-rape drug. She did not want to be identified or interviewed for a news article, but she did want us to know about her experience to validate the problem and possibly save other women from the trauma she experienced following a normal night out with friends.
Her experience was real and frightening, and now she finds herself having to try to piece together what happened to her while also pursuing testing for sexually transmitted diseases since she has no recollection of who victimized her. We believe she's not alone in her painful situation, and we'd like to warn others to take precautions to protect themselves from this drug and a potential sexual assault.
Reports of women being "roofied" have surfaced in recent weeks, and we've received several phone calls in the form of news tips claiming this crime is becoming a serious problem locally.
These drugs, which are colorless, odorless and tasteless, are placed in a person's drink. They work very quickly and have the power to incapacitate a person within 30 minutes, making them weak and confused and sometimes causing them to pass out or appear very drunk. In this state, a person is unable to defend themselves, and the perpetrator often uses the drug to commit a sexual assault.
Due to the serious nature of the crime, the Steamboat Pilot & Today wants to use this editorial space to raise awareness about the issue, educate the public about the potential threat and offer a few solutions.
We believe Steamboat's "culture of fun," which is typical of resort communities, could be contributing to the use of date-rape drugs. It's a transient community, where people come and go and visitors travel here to cut loose and enjoy vacation, making Steamboat an easier place for the drug to be used without detection.
The Steamboat Springs Police Department could not confirm that there has been a rise in incidents of date rape involving the drug, but they don't deny the drug has been used locally. It's also difficult to gauge how widespread the problem is or isn't because often women don't report incidents of date rape and the drug's use is hard to prove. Because the drug leaves victims confused with little memory, the incidents aren't discovered until the next day after the drugs are no longer detectable in the bloodstream.
Local police have made kits for testing drinks available for free to the public since March. Steamboat police purchased 200 "Drink Detectives" and publicized their availability. Since that announcement, only about 20 people have come by to pick up the kits. We support the police's latest plan to work with local bars to make the kits available there.
The test kits are about the size of a credit card and contain a pipette that is used to put drops of the drink on three test strips to test for Benzodiazepine, ketamine and gamma-hydroxybutyrate, three date-rape drugs. We encourage people to keep one of these kits with them in case they suspect their drink has been drugged. The police also advise people save the suspect drink and call the police.
Upon further research, we also discovered a small handheld device, called the Pd.id, is close to being available to the public. A crowd-funding campaign was launched July 15 to raise $100,000 to help with production of the device.
According to ITWeb, the Pd.id utilizes technology already in use by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to detect the presence of date-rape drugs. When immersed into a drink, a red LED on top of the device lights up if unusual substances are detected. The Pd.id can be linked to a user's smartphone and show what drugs have been found in the drink.
Beyond testing drinks, we would also like to see all bars and venues in Steamboat install interior cameras that can monitor interaction between customers. It would also serve as a deterrent if these establishments posted signs warning people that "Cameras Are In Use."
It is also important that people watch out for one another when they are out enjoying Steamboat's exciting nightlife. Don't leave your drink unattended, and if you see a friend acting strangely or overly drunk, it might be a good idea to make sure they return home safely. We also suggest people don't accept drinks from anyone they don't know or trust. And if you think you've been a victim, don't be afraid to report the incident to the police.
The purpose of this editorial is not to raise alarm and create panic. The Steamboat Pilot & Today has been covering this subject for over a decade, and it is not a new issue.
Back in March 2001, law enforcement officials were warning people to watch out for the use of date rape drugs. And it's apparent, the problem has ebbed and flowed over the years. But with a recent resurgence of reports made directly to us, we thought it was only responsible to warn the public again about this threat.