The discovery on Thursday of large quantities of marijuana and drug paraphernalia on five buses carrying Northern California teenagers is making national headlines, but police in Elko, Nev. today said it is not the first time it has happened.
Elko police also found drugs last year on buses carrying teens to a ski trip in Salt Lake City organized by the same company involved in Thursday's incident, police Capt. Will Leiman said.
Police stopped the five tour buses carrying about 250 teens on Thursday after receiving a tip that some teens were smoking marijuana.
The buses, organized by the company Summer Winter Action Tours, or SWAT, were traveling to Sale Lake City from Northern California for what the company website calls "the largest high school ski and snowboard trip in the nation."
Because of the difficulties in determining who owned the drugs discovered by search dogs, and because Elko only has one juvenile lockup with a maximum capacity of 28 people, police opted to seize the illegal items and allow the buses to move on with a warning, Leiman said.
Elko police seized slightly more than a pound of marijuana, while the Elko County Sheriff's Office seized an unknown additional quantity of drugs.
"Logistically, this was the best we could have done under the circumstances," Leiman said, noting that the charges would have been misdemeanors at best if arrests had been made.
The ones who are most to blame, Leiman said, are the organizers of the trip, who did not appear to have taken sufficient steps to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol on the trip.
He noted that there appeared to be only two chaperones for each busload of 50 kids, and that the chaperones were mostly around 18 years old.
"This happened last year as well," Leiman said. "Same bus line, same organizational people, and so our unhappiness is with the group that organizes this trip."
SWAT company officials did not return phone calls about the incidents but sent an email saying that "press reports were inaccurate" and that they would be issuing a statement shortly.
"Your students (sic) safety is our number one priority and we will be doing our best to ensure your son/daughter gets home safely," the company's message said.
Leiman said Elko police have received numerous phone calls from parents, most of whom have been angry with the bus company.
Bay City News