Pubdate: Fri, 27 May 2005
Source: Niagara This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Joe Fantauzzi
Bookmark: (Youth)


NIAGARA FALLS -- A police seminar geared to alerting children to the
dangers of drugs and unhealthy living set up shop on the grounds of
the Youth Optimist Club recently, to the visual theme of racing
against drugs.

About 2,000 students toured through 13 different 'pit stops' for six
minutes each hosted by regional, provincial and federal authorities to
learn lessons on issues such as the identification of narcotics,
bullying and dangerous driving. Both Niagara school boards, Niagara
Region's public health department and Laidlaw Niagara served as major
organizers for the event.

Sgt. Debbie Beaulieu of Niagara Regional Police, who served as
co-chair of the event, said the optical racing theme strikes a chord
with younger Niagara residents.

"It's been determined that this Grade 5 age group in particular yields
the best opportunity for us to get information to them (about drugs)
before they get exposed to those choices," said Sgt. Beaulieu. "Kids
are so visual at this age."

At one pit stop, an RCMP officer positioned himself in front of a
toilet bowl decorated to appear soiled with the intention of
graphically demonstrating a common method by which drugs are smuggled
into the country and then removed for sale on the streets.

"This is to show them the ingestion and extraction process," Beaulieu
said. "We want to try to gross the kids out."

Standing in front of an oval remote control race car track surrounded
with young people, RCMP Cpl. Ray Valiquette said the federal police
established the program in 1993 to bring awareness about growing drug
use among young people in Canada.

"The aim is to give the kids the tools to make the right decisions so
that when they are confronted with those choices they can make the
right decisions," Cpl. Valiquette said. "We're dealing with taking
control, and the things that affect your ability to be in control like
alcohol and drugs."

Ontario Provincial Police Const. Betty Anne Martin, community services
spokesperson for the Niagara detachment of the provincial force and
past chair of Racing Against Drugs, said children today are in an
excellent position to make informed decisions about narcotics and
healthy living. The OPP had set up a Jeopardy-style game at their pit
stop, quizzing kids on drug facts.

"I think there's a lot more information in the schools now," Const.
Martin said. "We want kids to know about drugs and tobacco. This might
be their first exposure to these things."
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