She stood at the podium with her daughter, shaking as she read from a prepared statement. Krissy McAfee was there to ask the Santa Clarita City Council to do what they could to stop the proliferation of drugs – especially the heroin that recently killed her son, Trey Daniel Allen – noting that programs like Just Say No To Drugs and red ribbons “just don’t work.”
Asked if she felt her presentation at Council was worth the raw emotion, McAfee was forthright.
“Absolutely I do, because I just feel like I need to get it out there that this is what’s happening, this is really, really bad in Santa Clarita right now as far as the heroin. We need to get that out there to people because they’re just not seeing it.”
She said that her frustration grew when she turned information about the young man who provided Trey with drugs in to authorities and didn’t see any change. She said the boy’s parents were aware of the situation and chose not to get involved.
Trey’s addiction and subsequent jailing started to take a toll on McAfee and her husband, and they sought support from Al-Anon.
McAfee said that she is dealing with her own guilt because she didn’t realize her son was into drugs until he had graduated from high school and was preparing to enter the U.S. Navy.
“He seemed so mean and aggressive,” she recalled. “We figured we’d hang in there until he went into the Navy, but the night before he was supposed to go in, he up and left the recruiter. I said that’s it, I’ve put up with your mouth and your meanness and started packing up his stuff. That’s when I found he was doing drugs.”
She said that every time Trey would get clean, he was completely different, but his circle of “bad friends” was the biggest problem. After his latest jail time, Trey made an attempt to straighten up by moving to Oklahoma to live with his father, but a quick trip back to make a court appearance – and revisit the circle of friends – proved fatal last month.
McAfee took the day off when Trey was to go to court so she could spend the day with him, recalling it as “the best day ever.”
The next morning, when she went out to her car to go to work, she found him dead in the driveway.
“He was supposed to fly out that morning,” she said. “The coroner told me the overdose went quicker because he had been clean.”
One of the things McAfee said was that information on the person who was allegedly giving Trey his drugs was given to the sheriff’s department, but no action was taken. Captain Paul Becker, who recently assumed command of the Santa Clarita Valley Station, took this claim very seriously.
“We are very receptive to people coming in and providing us information,” he said, noting that he had spoken with detectives in the Narcotics Bureau, which works out of headquarters bureau in another part of the county.
“We routinely get information and leads, I get information from CrimeStoppers or e-mails that I follow up or my lieutenants or sergeants follow up.”
During Tuesday night’s Council meeting, Councilman Bob Kellar, a former LAPD sergeant, said he’d heard people accuse the Sheriff’s Department of being nonresponsive before and asked Becker to provide a response to McAfee’s claims at the Council meeting on May 11.
“If you go to any police department, you’re going to hear the same sort of stuff,” Becker said. “Sometimes we get leads that are very vague, but especially in narcotics cases, it does help to get information from citizens.”
He said that budget constraints are affecting the fight against drugs as well.
“To make a case, there are an incredible number of man-hours involved in surveillance, teams watching locations and investigation. We have to be concerned about spending money.”
Becker said that he remembers Allen’s death and that enforcement efforts were stepped up after his demise.
“We stepped up our efforts,” he said. “What’s happening in suburban America is that there has been an influx of heroin. It’s a new phenomenon, not unlike methamphetamine or cocaine. Heroin is a lot cheaper than Vicodin or Oxycontin.”
“I feel for Ms. McAfee, she is going through a great deal of pain and I have no issue with her comments,” he continued. “I raised two boys at Valencia High, and they told me that there was meth in the school and that scared me. If I had a kid in high school now, I’d be terrified.”
Cary Quashen, the Executive Director of ACTION, a group that helps parents and teens deal with substance abuse and the problems of adolescence, said McAfee was certainly not alone in her frustration.
“Unfortunately, this is not going away, in fact, it’s been getting worse and worse and the kinds of drugs kids are using are getting stronger and stronger,” he said.
Quashen said that heroin is quickly becoming the drug of choice, especially since it doesn’t have to be injected anymore. Smoking heroin has become a popular pastime that is impacting not only local law enforcement, but is posing a problem for surrounding cities, such as Glendale and Simi Valley.
“We really have to educate not just the kids, but families and the community on the drugs out there,” he continued. “The kids are using them, we’re losing them, they’re dying. It’s always a tragedy to lose anyone to substance abuse.”
“As long as there’s a need, there will always be someone dealing,” Quashen said.
“One thing parents need to do is not put their heads in the sand,” he said. “If we have a feeling that our kids are doing something wrong, go with your gut, your feelings are almost always right. There is no such thing as overreacting to any kind of behavior that’s dangerous.
“I was talking with a father who had a 14-year old who was doing some serious drugs, but he didn’t want to overreact and put the kid in treatment. How do you overreact when your kid is doing something that could take their life? You do whatever you can to get between your kid and that behavior.”
“We’ve really gotta take a stand on this right now.”
The McAfees will be featured on the “Families In Action” show co-hosted by Quashen and Stephanie Weiss at 11 a.m. Monday, May 10.