A four-month undercover drug investigation at Paloma Valley and Perris high schools resulted today in the arrest of 25 students.
Using information obtained by two officers posing as students, Riverside Sheriff's Department officials arrested 23 juvenile students and two adult students between the two schools for involvement in illegal drug sales.
Dr. Jonathan Greenberg, superintendent of the Perris Union High School District, said this is the first time the district has participated in such an undercover investigation. He said the district was approached by investigators in August, seeking permission to place an undercover officer at each school. District officials agreed.
According to Greenberg, one officer posed as an 11th-grade female at Perris High and another posed as an 11th-grade male at Paloma Valley. Investigators didn't reveal to Greenberg why only those two schools in the district were targeted.
"This was very well thought out. They've been doing these programs for years," Greenberg said about the concept of undercover drug investigations at schools. "There was no entrapment involved. It was over pretty quick today. They don't parade the students around; they just come on campus, arrest them and take them away."
During the course of the investigation, deputies seized various illegal narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, hashish, and various types of prescription pills. Following the arrests of the students on narcotic-related arrest warrants, the juveniles were processed at the Perris Station. There they were offered counseling services and later transported to Juvenile Hall, where they were booked for the outstanding warrants.
The two adult students were arrested at Perris High School for narcotics sales. They are Serina Ramirez, 18, and Erick De La Cruz, 19. In addition, two search warrants were served in furtherance of the investigations. One search warrant was served in Menifee and the other was served in Perris.
Assisting the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department with the arrests were members of the Southwest Corridor Narcotics Task Force (SWCNTF), West County Narcotics Task Force (WCNTF), the Riverside County Regional Gang Task Force, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office and the Perris and Menifee Police Departments.
A message was emailed to the parents of all students in the district, explaining the actions.
"I feel I have an obligation as superintendent not to put my head in the sand on this," Greenberg said. "I was hoping the total arrests would be zero. But I'm not going to deny we have a drug problem in our society. I want the students to know we have ways to deter them from this. It is our obligation to do our best to keep our campuses clean."
Greenberg said only three people within the entire district were aware of the undercover investigation. When preparations for the arrests were being made, Greenberg informed the school board Wednesday night.