Letters to the Editor
DARE arms kids with information about drugs
Date: Jul 29, 2008
Drugs in the community are a fact of life. They aren't going away. But the impact of drugs can be mitigated through awareness, education and enforcement.
Left unchecked, drugs can be ruinous. Barrie police linked drug use to last Friday's crackdown on street-level prostitution. Those caught in the sweep included pregnant women and grandmothers.
Police say unprotected sex was offered for an additional fee, raising the scary prospect of the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
As important as enforcement is in cracking down on drugs, educating young people about the perils of taking drugs is just as important. Effective programs exist to carry out this task, including the DARE program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).
Every year hundreds of county students participate in a 10-week DARE program, modelled after a program founded in 1983 in Los Angeles. The program strives to give young people the knowledge and insight needed to fight the pull of drugs, and avoid the traps that ensnare so many.
The success of the program can't be ignored. Millions of school children around the world participate, with the program in place in 43 countries. It's taught by officers to children from kindergarten to Grade 12.
The officers have the on-the-job experience to answer difficult questions about drug abuse. Having seen the ravages of drug abuse close up, the instructors are credible messengers.
The DARE program is an example of community policing at work. It helps young people relate to officers by placing them in a mentoring role, not just enforcement. It opens a dialogue that helps break down barriers to communication, not only to police but to parents and teachers as well.
Programs like DARE provide no guarantees that young people won't be enticed into experimenting with drugs. But it arms them with information about the impact of drugs, and tells them it's alright to resist peer pressure - that they do have a choice.
Even with heightened enforcement, it's difficult to see a day when drugs won't destroy lives. Meth labs get busted, and others open up. Crack houses close down and move somewhere else.
But their potential for damage can be reduced, managed even, through programs that educate young people. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. That's a powerful defense.