A surprise search Sunday night at the Oak Hill juvenile center turned up no evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia inside the maximum-security facility, District officials said yesterday.
"There weren't any drugs on grounds Sunday night," Audrey Rowe, the D.C. commissioner for social services, said at a news conference yesterday. She was flanked by officials of the D.C. police department, which handled the search.
The search came seven days after extensive press publicity of alleged drug activity at the center, and after Rowe met with Oak Hill staff to begin tightening procedures and stem the flow of any drugs.
Despite the lack of drugs found in the search, Rowe said she would go ahead with measures she announced Friday that are intended to stop any drug activity, including regular searches of all staff and visitors and drug testing for all 150 juveniles at Oak Hill.
"I think that it would make common sense for anyone who has been through the last week at Oak Hill to have second thoughts about bringing drugs onto the grounds," Rowe said.
That thought was echoed by several Oak Hill counselors and one juvenile, who all said yesterday they were not surprised that no drugs were found in the search. They said they noticed that drug use declined after an article appeared in The Washington Post and Rowe began meeting with the Oak Hill staff.
"They cleaned us up for right now," said one counselor who declined to be identified. "We're probably as clean as we've been, right now."
The juvenile said he saw parents during Sunday's visiting hours carrying the news article and discussing it with their sons.
The staff members and juveniles interviewed for The Post article alleged that visitors were smuggling drugs into the institution, a 20-acre facility in Laurel for the District's most dangerous delinquents. They also alleged that several counselors are involved in the trafficking in some cases.
Rowe and other city officials have said that drug use is a problem at Oak Hill. The staff there has confiscated marijuana, PCP and cocaine in small quantities during the last 18 months and recent drug testing of 27 Oak Hill youths showed that 15 had some type of drug in their system.
Counselor James Robinson, who did the testing on boys entering a halfway house just before their release to the community, said the boys told him that they used the drugs inside the institution.
At yesterday's news conference, Rowe and Assistant D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood suggested that those interviewed had exaggerated the extent of the problem.
"I was surprised that we did not find anything," Fulwood said. "We should have found something. That's not to say there might not be a minor problem out there with drugs, but certainly last night there was not."
Fulwood said his officers did not interview any of the counselors quoted in the newspaper article, nor have they reviewed the drug test results. He said that a number of Oak Hill youths were questioned by police and all said that they had not used drugs at Oak Hill.
Rowe said she has asked the police to continue their investigation into the matter.
The search took place between 7 and 9 p.m., after visiting hours. D.C. police were accompanied by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and by dogs trained in sniffing out drugs. Each staff member was searched thoroughly