Police chief questions
by Lenny Roberts
Over the past decade, thousands of Ojai Valley youngsters
elected to enroll in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program
offered at nearly all public and private schools. Because of
budget cuts at the county level - and limited support from contributors
- D.A.R.E. has been pulled out of all schools this semester.
While Ojai Police Chief Gary Pentis believes that the program
is "excellent for building a positive relationship with
uniformed officers at the fifth- and sixth-grade levels,"
he questions if one semester of anti-drug teachings in a student's
career can make a difference.
"I don't think that really does anything for peer and other
pressures down the road," he said. "I don't think D.A.R.E.
can be effective without continual support from law enforcement
or the schools throughout the years that follow."
He said that losing the position of a D.A.R.E. officer was a
blow because he had hoped to transform the position, last held
by Deputy Kim Larson, into that of a middle school resource officer
working full-time at Matilija Junior High School in a position
mirroring that of Deputy Bud McCracken at Nordhoff High School.
D.A.R.E., Pentis added, can be a major part of the drug solution
with some kids, but is more effective when coupled with adult
mentors, role models and concerned parents.
"D.A.R.E. can be only be part of the solution if the whole
pie is present. It doesn't, in itself, keep kids off drugs. We
have an increase in usage of prescription opiate drugs, particularly
an upsurge in use among youth of Vicodin and OxyContin,"
Pentis explained. "We also have an increased awareness in
the training of deputies in opiate violations, which are relatively
new to the Ojai Valley. Our true interest is in the safety of
the adolescent community. Our primary objective is to bring them
to a place where they can receive help, not to prosecute them."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley
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