Prince George's County police have arrested two 10-year-olds for possession of the dangerous drug "PCP," commonly called "angel dust," in what school officials and police fear may signal the spread of the illegal substance to elementary school children.
"I'm so amazed," said Peter Blauvelt, chief of school security for the county. "It's rare at that level. Sometimes kids that age bring pills in from the family medicine cabinet to show their friends, but PCP hasn't gotten down there yet. I hope to God it doesn't."
Police are tight-lipped about the arrests while they try to determine where the children obtained the drug. But sources said the incident occurred shortly before noon last Friday at a shopping center in the Beltsville area.
Police reportedly sae the youngsters, who attend an unidentified elementary school in the Beltsville area, and asked them why they were not in school. A subsequent search of the children, police said, resulted in their finding a small quantity of PCP, and the children were arrested.
Police said that PCP, in powder form, is used widely in junior and senior high schools. But they said use among preteens is rare and especially dangerous.
"It's scary because the effects can be so harmful," said Susan Parker, of the county juvenile services office, which will handle the case. "The effects are very unpredictable, and people on PCP usually act out violently."
Physicians at the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore said that there have been more than 20 PCP-related deaths a year in the state. About half the cases are suicides, including gunshot wounds, hangings and drownings. None of those deaths, however, were children under 16 years old.
"I just don't hear of this kind of thing," said Police Lt. John Fyfe, head of the vice squad, which is investigating the case. Other police sources said that police have problems trying to break up junior and senior high school drug rings because such incidents often are handled internally by school officials.
"This scares me to death," said Prince George's Circuit Court Judge Vincent J. Femia, who handles juvenile cases. "By the nature of our society, if something is not reported to authorities, it did not occur."
School officials said there are more than 950 suspensions a year in the county for possession, use or distribution of illegal drugs. More than 90 percent of the cases involve marijuana. The county school board's policy is to expel students after a third drug offense.
Fewer than five drug cases a year involve elementary school children, officials said.
But because the PCP incident took place off school property, school security officials were not involved but have been informed of the case, authorities said.
Properly known as phencyclidine -- 2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine -- PCP is a powerful animal tranquilizer that has an extreme hallucinogenic effect on humans.
According to officials, the two 10-year-olds will be referred to the Department of Juvenile Services, which will decide whether to send the case to court.
"I have no problem with juvenile services handling those cases," said Eli Silverstein, chief of the juvenile division of the county state's attorney's office, "but if the kids are dealing durgs in schools, then the case has got to go further.
"There is sometimes an effort made by principals to try to keep these cases within a school system. I think this is one of the ways they can get good track records as far as promotions [are concerned] and are able to say they contain crime problems within the schools."