Pubdate: Mon, 29 Dec 2003
Source: Finger Lakes Times (NY)
Copyright: Finger Lakes Times 2003
Author: Howie Mansfield


LYONS - Beginning Jan. 1, Wayne County's Drug Abuse Resistance Education - 
or DARE - program will end. The often-analyzed drug abuse prevention class 
was a victim of a difficult economy, said Sheriff Richard Pisciotti.

"Yes, DARE was cut in the 2004 county budget. There has been a lot more 
pressure on the county, with an increase of calls, and that won't change," 
said Pisciotti. "We had to make a decision on economics."

The savings to the county will be between $10,000 and $15,000.

Pisciotti said the DARE program's effectiveness is hard to gauge.

"I think it was effective, but it's hard to put a benchmark on it and 
whether it reduces drug possession of DARE graduates in the future," said 
Pisciotti. "The biggest thing that DARE did was establish a good rapport 
between law enforcement and youth. These kids were able to meet a police 
officer and work with them before they would ever have seen them in an 
investigation. That type of rapport was valuable."

There were DARE classes run by the Wayne County sheriff's department in 
every community except Newark, Palmyra and Sodus; those municipalities run 
their own programs.

Newark Police Inv. Gary VerStraete, a certified DARE officer, said there 
have been no plans to cut the DARE program in Newark. He said the program 
has been streamlined recently, cut from 17 weeks to 10 weeks.

"We think it's an important program. We know it will stay in Newark for at 
least the end of the current budget cycle," said VerStraete.

Pisciotti said it's too early to tell if the affected districts will 
institute their own DARE programs. Tight budgets continue to be the 
deciding factor.

Special road patrols also have been cut in the latest county budget, 
Pisciotti said.

Scheduled overtime, which has allowed the sheriff's department to run 
special patrols for speeding, traffic details for events such as Canaltown 
Days in Palmyra, and extra investigations, has been eliminated, a savings 
of about $17,000 from 2003.

"What that did was take away our special patrols, which were highly 
effective," Pisciotti said. "It's a negative situation because of the state 
of the county right now. If there is a case where both the state police and 
sheriff's office are responding, we need personnel to respond to other 
incidents. It depletes our patrols." The sheriff said his office has gone 
to various lengths to keep all costs down.

"I've ordered deputies not to drive more than 100 miles on a shift to 
conserve on gas expenses," said Pisciotti. "We only let them go over if 
it's absolutely necessary."

Pisciotti noted there is a strong possibility if deputies and other 
personnel leave, that they may not be replaced by the county.

He said the two budget reductions go hand in hand, but neither cut solves a 
problem. While the DARE cut allows one more officer to be funded, it won't 
make a dent in the need on Wayne County roads.

"The greatest things visible to tax payers to see their tax dollars at work 
are through the highway department, emergency medical services and police," 
said Pisciotti. "This will be a long-term issue, because this budget is 
already in place.

"The county can bury their heads in the sand when they cut from the budget, 
but I can't. I have a responsibility to the people. The crime rate is 
directly related to the tax rate."
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart