Common items can be drug paraphernalia in hiding, expert says

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WEST VALLEY CITY -- Hats, shoes and shorts with secret compartments. Whipped cream dispensers turned huffing devices.

They look like your everyday clothes and grocery store products. But they mean a whole lot more to the drug culture and drug users, and they could be signs teens are up to no good.

One drug expert cop was at the Utah Council for Crime Prevention's Power of Prevention Conference in West Valley, warning people what to watch for in their own homes. Officer Jermaine Galloway is also a consultant who travels around the region, dropping the jaws of unwitting parents.

One item that is commonly found in local shopping malls that Galloway is talking about is the "stash hat." It looks like an ordinary baseball cap, but inside - with the zipper obscured below a fold of cloth -- is a hidden area large enough to hide a key -- or potentially user amounts of drugs.

Galloway also showed off shorts with a detachable pouch that hangs by the underwear around the groin, and shoes that have a zip pouch under the tongue.

Warning signs of drug abuse
  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.
  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Unexplained financial problems.
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.

"As a police officer, anything with a non-traditional compartment always makes you kind of wonder what's in there," Galloway said. "We're law enforcement and most of us hold our wallets in our front or back pocket or something like that. So it always makes you wonder. Sure there are probably people who put their house keys in there. They hide their hundred dollar bill in there or something like that. But there are also people who use those things in a negative way."

Galloway is warning parents to also be looking for what is on t-shirts. An image of a clock may mean nothing, but if the clock's time is 4:20 - it's a drug reference, Galloway said.

Galloway demonstrated how a small container of Reddi Whip -- found at numerous convenience stores and grocery stores -- can become a drug tool for a huffer simply by how the dispenser is depressed.

"It just sends out the nitrous (oxide)," Galloway said as the container hissed. "It doesn't send out the whipped cream."

Galloway underscores these products can obviously be benign on their own, but if they start showing up in bulk in, say, a teen's room - there may be room for suspicion from parents.

Parents who attended Galloway's remarks at the conference had their eyes opened.

"I as a parent of five children am scared to death for my children," Sharon Taylor said. "Going about normal activity, you would never know that drugs are being hidden like this."

Galloway's advice to parents? If something looks foreign, Google it. Many of the products are sold online. One web ad KSL uncovered of a "stash" hat had printed in bold, "Features small stash pocket on inside!" Galloway also tells parents to question their children early and often. "You're going to alleviate a lot of problems and you're also going to have a baseline with your kids," Galloway said. "You're going to understand what they're thinking and where they're going and where they're going with different things. If you don't do that, then you're going to totally miss it."


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Andrew Adams


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