Several residents attended “Operation Street Smart” on Monday evening at the Wellsville High School auditeria. There they heard the latest statistics and facts on drug abuse during the adults-only seminar, which was hosted by the school district.
The three-hour program is a collaborative effort between the Franklin County Sheriff’s office, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) — the Sheriff’s office’s undercover narcotics branch — and D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Formed 15 years ago, the program’s mission is to present the latest information on trends, terminology, paraphernalia and physiological effects to those who work with children.
School board member Nancy Francis, who organized Monday’s seminar and its visit to Wellsville, said the goal for Monday’s discussion was to make parents aware of what they can look for in the event they have concerns about their children and the possibility of drug abuse.
“The idea was to present it so that parents whose children they believed were not involved in drugs would have an idea of what to look for in case they become concerned,” Francis said.
She said several members of the public, including parents, area law enforcement agencies, village officials and state officials were also invited to attend the seminar.
Lt. Shawn Bain and Sgt. Michael Powell, both members of the SIU, served as keynote speakers and provided information on drug addiction statistics, the various types of drugs, and most notably where the drugs are being concealed after suspects make contact with police.
On the auditeria stage — as well as at a table near where Bain and Powell stood — sat hundreds of ordinary everyday household items, which have also doubled as storage for narcotics and alcohol, based on past traffic stops. These included cell phones, lipstick canisters, permanent markers, umbrellas, compact disc jewels, ice packs, eye droppers, peanut butter jars, salt canisters, and seemingly-unopened beer cans amongst the many displayed.
Monday’s seminar marked the second time in less than a year the program was presented in Columbiana County. Last September, the program was held at the Beaver Local K-12 campus and was hosted by the St. Clair Township Police Department.
Among those in attendance for Monday’s seminar was state Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem), who also attended last year’s seminar at Beaver Local. He commented on the importance of the program for its education as well as learning some new information.
“I think it’s vitally important that we reach not only our kids at an earlier age, and there’s the wisdom being shared by many leaders across the state and individuals that recognize that we need to push this down a bit,” Ginter said. “On the other hand, I think this is so vital in that we’re sharing the information with the parents, with the caregivers, with individuals who really would have no knowledge of these particular items that they’re showing. I think that it’s vital in that they can spot if there’s any drug abuse taking place at home or some of the kids around them.”
Ginter said he was alarmed with the items used in an attempt to evade police, and commended police throughout the state, as well as schools, for doing what they can to keep children away from the epidemic and considered the program a “vital thing.”
“I’m not sure that we can keep ahead it, but I certainly believe that we must continue to try,” Ginter said. “We have to use all the tools that we have in the toolbox at this point. We are in a war that is threatening to take, really, an increasing number of lives of our kids and our families. This is devastating families, and we have to utilize everything that’s at our disposal at this point.”
Also in attendance for Monday’s meeting was Mayor Nancy Murray, Superintendent Richard Bereschik and members of village council and the school board.