County survey reveals drugs as greatest issue of concern

Roxanne Ready, Editor-in-Chief

A recent countywide survey showed concern over illegal drug use far outweighs concern for all other problems facing residents.

In a survey of 553 Anne Arundel County residents, the Center for the Study of Local Issues—an AACC-based research program—found the percentage of people who view drugs as the “most important problem facing residents” has risen from 13 percent one year ago to 23 percent this year.

Concern for all other issues ranged between 4 and 12 percent, with overdevelopment as the next-closest issue of concern.

Among 10 tracked categories—which also include the economy, education and transportation—concern over drugs has consistently ranked highest since fall 2015 when it reached 15 percent, eclipsing by one percentage point the issue of high taxes.

“[The rise of drugs as a concern] points to a kind of new and growing problem … of the pervasiveness of drugs,” said Dr. Dan Nataf, the CSLI program director.

Nataf said he “assume[s] it’s the opioid crisis” in particular driving the increase, but cannot be sure as the survey does not differentiate between types of drugs.

Dr. Nataf also administered the survey less formally to 45 AACC students—meaning the people surveyed were not randomized and the results were not weighted to take into account over- or under-representation of demographic groups as in a formal survey.

In the informal survey, 38.6 percent of students listed illegal drug use as the most important issue facing residents.

“The opioid crisis is pretty big,” said Elin Fan, a Broadneck high schooler who attends AACC through the Early College Access Program—formerly known as Jump Start. “[The county is] doing a good job of informing [about the dangers of drug use]. However, I don’t know if it’s actually, like, going through to people.”

“You can say it and say it, but trying to force someone to actually listen to what you’re saying, you can’t do that,” Ava Porter, a freshman pre-veterinary major, said.

The next-most-pressing issue for students was the environment, at 13.6 percent.

“My grandparents live on the Chesapeake Bay … it used to be crystal clear,” Mackenzie Mitchell, a second-semester veterinary major, said. “[But] now if you look at it, it’s completely black almost, and a lot of the [animal] population is dying.”

The surveyed students ranked overdevelopment—the second-highest concern in the county survey—among the lowest concerns, at 2.3 percent.

The Center for the Study of Local Issues conducts formal surveys of county residents by phone and email twice a year: in fall and spring. Administers of the survey include AACC students who are interning with CSLI or who are allowed or required to participate in survey administration for credit in some courses. Nataf coordinates the survey administration to teach students about how surveys are conducted.