LAKE ORION (WWJ/AP) – Police say they made the right decision to use a 14-year-old boy last month in a sting to bust a suspected drug dealer in metro Detroit.
The sting came to light after a 35-year-old parolee was arrested for trying to sell marijuana in a Lake Orion park. The child’s participation, however, has been criticized by prosecutors handling the case as being potentially dangerous.
Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh said such cases involving children are rare, but that the matter was handled appropriately and that the teen wasn’t at risk. He said the teen’s mother gave her approval and was nearby in a police car at all times during the March 15 bust.
“We had a situation where the man next door had been trying for months to sell marijuana to this teenager and he (the boy) told his mother who went to us for help,” Narsh said. “Since we believe he was targeting teenagers, the only way to get him off the street was to arrange a buy.”
The bust, Narsh said, “got a monster off the street.” The need for such tactics, he said, reflects the young age that some children begin using illegal drugs. He noted that 17-year-olds participate in stings for illegal tobacco sales and 19-year-olds are involved in stings targeting illegal alcohol sales.
“I’ve had a case in our town where a 12-year-old was snorting heroin,” Narsh said. “Here you have a situation where someone is approaching potential teenage customers. It’s a sad reality but we have to devise ways to deal with it and stop it.”
Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, which is handling the criminal case, said it didn’t approve of the tactic. Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton noted, however, that his office doesn’t authorize or dictate how local police agencies handle their investigations.
“The behavior in which they were engaged is dangerous,” Walton told The Oakland Press. “We would never sanction it, but it’s not our call.
The parolee is jailed awaiting a hearing on a charge of selling drugs to a person under the age of 18, a felony that’s punishable by up to 8 years in prison.
The state attorney general’s office has reportedly been asked to investigate the use of the child in the sting.
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