POLICE, CITY CONCERNED BY TEEN `RAVES'
WORRIES ABOUT DRUGS AT PARTIES LEAD TO PROPOSED
By ROBERT F. MOORE, Staff Writer
Inside a smoke-filled warehouse, techno music blares through large speakers.
About two dozen
teens sit against the wall, staring into space.
Others converge in the middle of the floor, dancing, twirling light
sticks and chugging bottled water.
One teen lies motionless on the dance floor, eyes closed. A teen dances over him, flashing lights
over his face.
The scene was at a makeshift club called Sanctuary, 618 W. Morehead
St., on a recent Saturday night.
The event was a rave, a kind of dance party often held in warehouses or empty buildings, usually until
dawn. Raves are events that attract teens and young adults, by word of mouth, fliers or the Internet.
Raves also attract trouble, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police,
paramedics and city leaders. They
say police have investigated hundreds of drug-related incidents at rave clubs during the past two years.
Primarily popular in urban areas, about a half-dozen groups hold raves in the Charlotte area each
weekend. Promoters usually rent space in the same location for months at a time.
Police say raves are a public safety issue because they expose teen-agers
and younger adults to drug
activity and the possibility of sexual assaults associated with so-called designer drugs, such as Ecstasy.
While bars and other dance clubs serving alcohol are regulated by the city and state, raves don't serve
alcoholic beverages and aren't licensed.
That may soon change, as police and city officials review a proposed
ordinance that would set a
midnight closing on rave events, which the proposal calls juvenile dance halls, for teen-agers 17 and
under. No one 18 and older would be allowed entry.
The ordinance would also establish a 2:30 a.m. closing for 18-and-older
raves. The proposal is expected
to come before the City Council for a vote this fall. Police say support from city leaders is widespread. A
similar ordinance, believed to be the first in the state, was passed Tuesday in Raleigh.
Police have already received help from some property owners, who have
stopped leasing buildings for
raves, after police said they had found evidence of drug use.
But raves also have enthusiastic followers, who contend police and media
reports of drug activity are
"It's not all about drugs," said Staci Edwards, 21, a payroll clerk
who has attended raves in Charlotte in
recent months. "It's about people who come out to support the deejays. It's like a family."
Edwards said she is among dozens of friends who intend to fight the proposed ordinance.
"It's been the topic of conversation for weeks," she said.
Shad Salerno, the Sanctuary's promoter, said he is aware some people
use drugs at the all-night parties,
but he doesn't condone it.
"If we catch people doing drugs, we escort them out," Salerno said.
"But I can't have eyes everywhere at
the same time."
Since raves became popular about two years ago, hundreds of police reports
problems. The reports describe partygoers high on designer drugs, such as Ecstasy, GHB and
Ketamine, and some so impaired they can't walk.
Paramedics and police say they find young people in varying states of
consciousness - in bathrooms, on
sidewalks, in nearby parking lots, and in cars. In one case, according to Mike Moore, a Medic supervisor,
a teen-age boy stood naked in the woods near a Charlotte club, unable to remember how he got there.
So far, authorities say none of the incidents has been life-threatening.
Still, they're concerned.
"If we don't do something soon, somebody is going to die at one of these
things," said Matt Grimsley, a
Uptown is 'ground zero'
Moore said paramedics respond to as many as four or five overdose calls
each weekend at uptown rave
clubs. The most common uptown calls, according to Medic records, have been to Midnite to Six, a rave
club at 431 E. Trade St., and North College Street, the location of several bars and dance clubs.
Records show drug overdoses occur not only at the all-night rave parties,
but also inside and around
"Ground zero for us is uptown," Moore said.
Since January 1999, officers have been called to Midnite to Six more
than 180 times, according to
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police records. The club is one of few rave venues with a fixed location. The calls
for service range from drug-related incidents to assaults and unspecified injuries.
After a recent all-night party, several male partygoers were carrying
young women out of the club, as
security guards tried to clear the parking lot.
Club owners did not respond to requests for interviews.
'Special K' popular
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials say more than 65 people
have died across the country
during the past decade from overdoses of designer drugs, including GHB, Ecstasy or Ketamine, also
known as `Special K.' Overdoses have most often been linked to raves.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say the drugs can be purchased cheaply at area raves.
Liquid GHB, for example, is generally sold in small vials for about $5, according to police.
Paramedics and police say GHB causes dehydration and hypothermia. Police
say rave clubs capitalize
on it by selling hundreds of bottles of water each weekend.
Promoters and ravers say the water is sold for a less sinister reason.
"I'm thirsty (and) it's hot," said a young woman standing at the refreshment
window of 519 W. Palmer St.,
an uptown rave location.
Police say GHB is generally used for its euphoric rush, giving dancers
added energy. But in large doses
and in combination with alcohol, it sedates users and often results in amnesia.
Ketamine, an anesthetic used primarily by veterinarians, is an increasingly
popular club drug, according
to police. Produced as a clear liquid, sometimes injected into the vein, or in white powder form, Ketamine
causes hallucinations. It sells for about $20 per dose and has been used elsewhere as a date-rape
Ecstasy, a derivative of methamphetamine, is generally sold in tablet
form. It also produces a euphoric
high. The most recent drug-abuse survey conducted by the Charlotte-based Substance Abuse Prevention
Services indicated that about 10 percent of 347 Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school seniors surveyed had
used the drug.
Stephens: City must act
Police Chief Darrel Stephens came to Charlotte last year from Florida,
a state in which several large
cities - Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa - have already passed ordinances to regulate raves.
Stephens said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officials but also the rank-and-file want the ordinance.
"Every month, I meet with patrol districts to talk about the problems
they're facing," he said. "They
identified rave clubs as a major problem."
Stephens said the city has a responsibility to respond to what he called
a documented threat to public
A draft of the proposed ordinance says, "The City of Charlotte finds
raves provide an arena for
predatory-type sexual crimes."
It also says rave parties "expose drug activity to the youth of our
city" and potentially can result in "drug
addiction, overdose and death of both juveniles and adults."
The proposed ordinance would not only limit the hours of operation for
raves, but would also require
licensing, inspection guidelines and off-duty police to provide security.
"People have died from overdoses associated with these types of clubs,"
Stephens said. "We want to do
everything we can to prevent that from happening here."
Reach Robert F. Moore at (704) 358-5934 or email@example.com.