Police reach out to Macon’s youth to prevent drug use

jmink@macon.comDecember 20, 2013 

As a national report shows an increase in marijuana use among adolescents, The Telegraph spoke with Lt. Ellis Sinclair, of the youth prevention unit with the Macon Police Department, about local efforts to curb drug use.

QUESTION: According to a national report, the rate of children using marijuana is on the rise. Tell me about your program and how it combats adolescent drug use.

ANSWER: Our program is geared toward serving the youth of the city and the county. We offer a variety of programs and youth intervention to young people up to the age of 17. We did have the DARE program, but we’re no longer teaching DARE -- this was the last year. We’ve gone to a new program called CHAMPs, which is similar to DARE, but it offers a little more curriculum. We do tobacco, alcohol and of course drug awareness in all aspects.

But we also talk about self-esteem and assertive techniques, teaching our young people how to be assertive and when to be assertive. Also, we do anger management, conflict resolution, risk assessment, decision-making skills and interpersonal and communication skills.

QUESTION: Where do you host these programs?

ANSWER: We go into the classroom, but we also go into the community and churches. A lot of civic organizations call upon us to talk to their young people, as well as the Boy and Girl Scouts. We have several partnerships with other youth groups -- our calendar stays busy.

QUESTION: The national report says the number of teenagers using marijuana is on the rise, do you think that’s the case locally?

ANSWER: It’s hard to say. A lot of it has to do with making positive decisions ... and there’s a lot of peer pressure. We, along with the school system, are talking to the young people about the dangers of drugs and the use of marijuana.

QUESTION: This report focuses on marijuana, but are there any other types of drugs that seem to be a problem among Macon’s youth?

ANSWER: I don’t know that there are any other drugs in particular, but a lot of (what we see) is marijuana use. As far as cocaine, we haven’t seen that problem among our young people at all, but I wish I could stop seeing the use of marijuana. But most of the young people we deal with, they know about the dangers of marijuana.

QUESTION: The report shows that alcohol abuse among teens is decreasing. Do you deal with alcohol use, too?

ANSWER: Yes. We deal with tobacco, alcohol and drug awareness. Every time we talk about drugs, alcohol is one of the topics. We talk about the dangers of alcohol use.

QUESTION: How effective do you think this program, and the DARE program, have been?

ANSWER: The program has been very effective. We’ve been teaching DARE since the ‘80s, and we think the program has made a difference in many young people’s lives.

We’ve run into people we dealt with years ago; some of them come up to us and thank us for the difference we’ve made in their lives.

QUESTION: What are some of the top warnings you give students about drug use?

ANSWER: We talk about the dangers it brings to their health but also that connection with their family and how, oftentimes, it can hurt their families.

QUESTION: What advice would you give parents and others about adolescent drug use?

ANSWER: To pay close attention to your children, and know who their friends are. Every now and then, sit down and talk with your children; make sure things are going positively in their lives.

Some of our parents need to open up a little bit more to their children and let them know they are concerned with their lives. Also, make sure the music they’re listening to is positive, the TV shows they watch need to be positive and also (monitor) the Internet.

Contact writer Jenna Mink at 256-9751.

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