PHILADELPHIA -- The investigation into a Main Line high school drug ring began months ago. Police arrested one alleged ringleader in February.
But school administrators said this week that they didn't know about the probe until hours before authorities Monday announced the arrests of 11 people and unveiled a cache of seized drugs, cash and weapons.
The admission underscores what has become a frustration among some law enforcement agencies vying to root out networks that peddle to teens: Collaborating with schools during investigations can be difficult -- or even counterproductive.
"School systems, historically, just are not interested in working with law enforcement," said Jonathan Duecker, special agent in charge of the bureau of narcotics investigation and drug control at the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.
Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said the issue is an image problem. "No school wants to be known as the school where we found drugs," said Mr. Hogan, whose office had a small role in the Main Line case. "They don't even want to hear that there are drugs in their schools."
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Monday that Neil Scott, 25, of Haverford, and Timothy Brooks, 18, of Villanova, organized and operated the drug trafficking operation. The men, both alumni of the Haverford School, a private prep school, recruited student dealers and sold marijuana and other drugs at high schools and colleges.
Detectives arrested Mr. Scott in February on the day they searched his Haverford apartment. Loaded weapons and five pounds of marijuana, about one ounce of cocaine, and other drugs they found was enough for authorities to arrest him, Montgomery County first assistant district attorney Kevin R. Steele said.
Evidence led investigators to his alleged accomplices, including two juveniles still in high school, police said. The others, including Mr. Brooks, were arrested this week.
The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office did work with some of the colleges involved in the case, but he said the high schools did not need to know about the investigation.
Said Lower Merion police Superintendent Michael McGrath: "You would undercut your investigation if you let too many people in on the details prior to making an arrest."
In other cases, however, investigators say, they butted heads with school administrators who seemed more concerned about the perception of drugs being found in their buildings.
School and police officials say that cooperation does occur -- though some districts might prefer to deal, at least initially, with problems themselves.
After Monday's arrests, Radnor school officials posted an online reminder that "one of the most important factors in keeping kids safe is information provided to school administrators by students and parents."
The message made no mention of alerting police of a possible crime. A school spokesman said the message did not mean to discourage anyone from contacting authorities.
Students seemed nonplussed by news of the arrests.
Most of about a dozen students from Radnor and Lower Merion High Schools who were interviewed Tuesday said they were not surprised to learn of the alleged drug ring operating in their schools.
At Radnor, 15-year-old Nico Reh said he knew "a lot of people" involved with drugs.
"Some people do stupid things," Reh said.