he Swanzey Police Department in southwestern New Hampshire is active in crime prevention. It maintains Neighborhood Watch groups and sponsors community events such as the Bravest-versus-Finest softball game, self-defense classes for women, and basic awareness and safety classes for children. With 11 full-time officers and one part-time officer, it is, in many ways typical of many smaller police departments. Swanzey is also home to one of the largest regional high schools in the state.
As it has in many small towns, the problem of illegal drug use has crept into the consciousness of the community. Knowing that possible drug use by children was a concern for parents in the town and surrounding communities, the department's school resource officer (SRO) presented to the chief a plan for a proactive crime prevention tool in the form an antidrug kit for parents. These kits empower parents to keep their children drug-free by offering information and convenient affordable drug and alcohol tests. The drug kits can screen for the presence of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, morphine, ecstasy, PCP, and other drugs. A brochure that comes with each kit describes some of the common traits and symptoms that parents observe in children suspected of drug and alcohol abuse.
In partnership with the school district, the Swanzey Police Department cosponsors a program that makes drug-testing kits available to parents upon request. These tests produce immediate results in the privacy of the home. About half the parents using the kits have voluntarily reported the results to the police. Some parents have reported that the test was negative, and others reported that it was positive and stated that they would not have known if it were not for the test.
Parents are not the only ones using the kits, though. A student caught with a marijuana pipe came to the school resource officer with his father and asked if there was a way he could prove to his father that he was not using drugs. He purchased a test himself and went home to use it. The test came back negative. The test helped repair some of the damage that he had caused by having the drug paraphernalia. His father also called the department to confirm the results.
The department has a list of local or nearby drug and alcohol treatment centers available to any parent or student requesting one. In addition to treatment centers, there is the Self-Assessment Saturdays for Youth (SASY) diversion program. SASY focuses on the teens' assessment of the risks of their substance abuse and plans for change. The group format is two consecutive Saturdays for four hours.
Recently, a parent came for help because of trouble with her daughter. The mother was reluctant to take the test material at first, but after discussing the warning signs, she brought the test home for her daughter. She returned to the police department the next day and asked for help with a referral for substance abuse help. Because of the early intervention in this case, the daughter was able to get help.
Providing a cost-effective and simple mechanism for concerned parents to test their children for unlawful substance abuse, without the police needing or wanting to know the results, can help law enforcement by reducing future complaints and crimes. A reduction in police responses for domestic disturbances, thefts, truancy, and several other areas where drug use and youths are common denominators is possible, because parents have taken the steps to get involved. ■
For more information on the Swanzey program, please call Officer Wayne Kassotis at the Swanzey Police Department at 603-352-7505.