Courtesy of the Sheriff's Department
Six of the people arrested were juveniles after a year-long investigation at area high schools.
An undercover San Diego County sheriff’s deputy describes rampant drug use among teenagers in several North County schools fueled by a network of social media and text messages.
The deputy is now speaking out about how she pretended to be a high school student, to stop drug sales and drug use in high school.
“I don't think that they had any idea,” the deputy told NBC 7 in an exclusive interview.
Six juvenile suspects and 10 adults were arrested Tuesday. The campuses involved included Poway High School, Mt. Carmel High School, Ramona High School and Mission Hills High School.
High school students and teachers were duped into believing a deputy in her late 20s was a senior transfer student.
“I came up with my own background story. I obviously went shopping for younger clothes and studied a lot of the social media and what high school kids are into…music, the way they dress,” she explained.
For a semester, the undercover deputy dubbed "A2" even appealed to the drug culture, all while trying to remain unsuspicious.
“I was wearing Bob Marley clothing which opened conversation for drug use,” the deputy said.
Drug use, which she says is rampant amongst teens.
“It's not just the "cool kids" doing it or a certain type of group, it's everybody,” she said.
A sting called "Operation A Team" uncovered marijuana and prescription drug sales along with harder drugs like cocaine and heroin officials said.
“You got kids literally using heroine now, 16, 17. That didn't happen 10, 15, 20 years ago,” said Lt. Hank Turner with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Also a relatively new game changer is social media.
“People are using Facebook to set up drug deals. People are advertising their drug use on Facebook, on Twitter. During class, everyone is on their phone, texting each other,” the undercover deputy explained.
Nearly six months of undercover work resulted in 19 arrest warrants, including 10 adults.
Nine of the arrest warrants were for current and former students, and 10 warrants were served to adults who sold narcotics to the undercover deputies, officials said.
“I'm hoping after this they realize, they turn their life around and realize it's not a small issue. It's something to be taken very seriously,” the deputy said.