Everyone knows you can get a shot of espresso at the Starbucks on Webster Groves' bucolic square -- but it took a parent forum last month at Hixson Middle School to start the rumor that it might be a good place to score some heroin too.
During the forum, which addressed adolescent drug trends, local drug counselor Jean Sokora proclaimed that teenagers could purchase heroin in front of the Starbucks on South Old Orchard, across the street from the Gazebo, near the intersection of Big Bend Boulevard and Lockwood Avenue. The announcement caused a few helicopter moms in the crowd to spin their propellers.
Hang on, you say: there's a heroin problem in a town that boasts one of the highest income rates in the county -- and it's purchased in front of a family-friendly coffee shop, near a handful of schools, next to a gazebo where school children run free?
Whoa back, we say! This doesn't mean you should pack up and move to Clayton. After calling Sokora, we feel obliged to put things in perspective.
First, the fact that heroin is rising in the St. Louis region, including the more affluent neighborhoods of West County, is not breaking news. Last year the Post-Dispatch did a nice job highlighting the trend in a front-page story, which included the relevant stats in a county-by-county chart.
Sokora, who works for Preferred Family Healthcare, a county-wide organization that offers interventions and drug-based treatment to kids in several school districts, tells Daily RFT there were five individual occasions within the past five months in which her organization heard that an adolescent had bought heroin in the vicinity of the Starbucks -- and that she has no direct evidence of such drug deals occurring. What's more, she says, there is no reason to presume drug hand-offs are made directly in front of the coffee shop, for all the little kids to see. (There are several shops in the area; Starbucks is probably the most prominent.)
"I don't want to call Starbucks out," says Sokora. "My point was really that every community has a place where kids gather unsupervised. And in those situations they are more vulnerable to people who may be selling drugs."
Sokora made the comment simply because she wants parents to know heroin is a big deal in Webster, just as it is in nearby towns. But the fact that five people, at some point in time, have bought heroin near the gazebo does not mean the area is a hot spot for drugs, she says.
Still, the Webster Groves Police Department isn't discounting Sokora's claim. "We were made aware of the accusation, and we're looking into it," Captain Stephan Spear tells Daily RFT. "We want to weigh it out and see what relevance there is to it. If there is something there, we will take action."
Starbucks' district manager did not return phone messages seeking comment.