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CRACK PROBLEM: Gone From Headlines Not Streets

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We hear a lot about drugs like methamphetamine and ecstasy in the news, but we don't hear much about crack cocaine anymore.  Experts tells us that does not mean it isn't a problem in the metro anymore.

Gino Garcia of Des Moines had his whole life planned out when he was a teenager.  Serve in the military to pay for college, graduate, and become a newspaper columnist.  "I figured if I was a journalist I could change the world.   I had a lot of opinions and thoughts and..just how the world should be run." Garcia remembers.  But his world changed when he was a sophomore in college and tried crack cocaine for the first time with his then-girlfriend.  "That person introduced me to crack cocaine.  And I liked it." Garcia says, "I can't blame that person for it.  I made choices that I liked it.  But I knew right at that instant that I had done something to my soul then.  Something that was terribly wrong.  Horribly wrong.  And to be honest I've been fighting it ever since."

For 20-years, Garcia`s life was out of control.  He was an addict.  "It was very intense.  It was a euphoric get away type of drug.  Yeah it had a bad stigma with it but it felt good.  You had a bad day, go get some drinks, go out  and party.  Wasn't a real big deal..till you were addicted to it."

That`s when Garcia turned to stealing to feed his habit.  "You can't afford crack.  And so you're eventually going to start doing crime.  And it was petty stuff at first.  Simple forgeries here.  Simple forgeries there.  Then I got into burglaries." Garcia says,  "Basically your mind is saying no...don't do it.  But there's something internally that just keeps you going.  And you know it's wrong,"

Police say just because we don`t hear about crack that much anymore doesn`t mean it`s not still a problem in Des Moines.  "With the wave of meth and the drugs that people are used to hearing about like marijuana, they seem to have taken more of a center stage." says Sergeant Chris Scott with the Des Moines Police Department, "But crack`s out there. It`s not gone anywhere."  Des Moines police do not keep track of individual crack arrests, but long time officers insist it's still a problem.

Garcia is a bright, well read guy with a hearty laugh and friendly personality.  So why does someone who has so much going for him allow himself to get hooked on a drug like crack?  A lot of it has to do with depression and the shame of being a crack addict.  "Saying to myself I just don't want to be here anymore.  Even though I know that's a cop out to say that but....if I'm not going to actually commit suicide I'm virtually going to just ruin myself into the ground till I'm worthless." Garcia says, And that's pretty much what I did."

After several stints in prison, Garcia is trying to get his life back on track.  He`s going to school and looking for a job but he knows employers are leery about hiring a former addict with a criminal record.  He`s talking with us because he wants people to know what an insidious drug crack is.  "People typically look at a person who uses crack and they think it's a person on 6th Avenue or someone in the gutter somewhere or someone trying to hock a DVD." he explains,  "It's not.  A lot of times it's people who go to work everyday, they got this closet problem.  And that's usually what it is is a closet problem.  They're leading this double life because they don't want anyone to know.  It's very shameful."

Shameful..and life destroying.  "That's what I did." Garcia says, "I allowed myself to be enslaved.  By a drug and by imprisonment.  By my actions.  And I think about that and it kills me."