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DALLAS (CBS11) – Dallas Police are linking aggressive downtown panhandling with an epidemic spike in the use of the synthetic drug K2 and they’re promising aggressive enforcement in response.

Downtown commuters already run a gauntlet of panhandlers and in-your-face poverty.

“There’s enough crazy people out here without adding drugs to the mix,” says commuter Travis Berlin.

Now, police believe that what has in the past been regarded as a ‘nuisance’ is now fast becoming a crisis.

“You’ll see people on the corner just wandering around,” says Dallas Police Chief David Brown, “but, [it] can also cause you to be very, very violent… [and ] be very, very aggressive.”

Police say dealers are preying on the already vulnerable homeless population, even giving them the drug for free to get them hooked. “It is very cheap… and that makes it attractive to our homeless community,” says Chief Brown. “They can panhandle for 2,3,4,5 dollars and go buy a hit of K2.”

Gabriel asked that we not use his last name. But, he navigates that world on his daily commute through downtown. But, he has learned the hard way that “this is not a downtown problem. It’s gotten to the suburbs.”

The suburban father of six tells us that he never suspected that the K2 crisis would follow him home. Two weeks ago, his 16 year old wound up in the emergency room after using the synthetic drug.

“He became incoherent, unresponsive…he wasn’t breathing at all,” says Gabriel. “His head is just going back and forth like a bobble head… literally.”

Gabriel says he was shocked… frightened, and disappointed.

“[I] thought he was smarter. Obviously, no, he is not.”

Now, he and police have a warning for others: this synthetic drug has very real consequences.

“It’s pretty dangerous,” says Gabriel. “It doesn’t smell like normal marijuana, so I wasn’t even aware.”

“It is a dangerous, dangerous, drug,” says Chief Brown. “Don’t try it. Walk away from those that might offer it to you. It is not something that you want to try.”

Chief Brown is expected to brief the council on the problem later this month.

A presentation to the Public Safety Committee planned for Monday was postponed. Nevertheless, he says officers are already taking action on the crisis. At least three dealers have been arrested. Police say the next step is to go after the supply.

“We think this might may be a flash point as it relates to K2 addiction in the city, and we want to make sure it doesn’t expand beyond downtown and that it’s stopped in its tracks,” says Chief Brown.

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