DARE class raises gang concerns
Melissa Cason, Franklin County Times
The Franklin County DARE Officer attended the National DARE Conference in Nashville recently to learn interactive classroom techniques and to learn about new trends in drug abuse.
"The most eye-opening part was about gangs," DARE Officer Mike Franklin said. "Gang arrests have increased significantly in the southern states over the past year."
Franklin said that new research has shown that rural areas are a "gold mine" for gangs due to law enforcement's inability to recognize them immediately or before problems arises.
"We don't see a lot of gangs in our area so it's more difficult for law enforcement to recognize them," Franklin said. "We also don't have the specialized gang divisions found in other parts of the country to focus on gang problems."
While gangs are popping up across the southern states, Franklin said that he doesn't feel that's a problem looming for Franklin County.
"I don't think we have a problem with gangs but with growth comes new opportunities for criminal activities," Franklin said.
He added that some of the workshops focused on how to detect gangs in schools, which is helpful to him so he can recognize the signs of gang activity before there is a problem in a school or the community.
Some of the workshops focused on prescription medication, which Franklin said seems to be the drug of choice for many students.
"This generation is known as the 'RX generation' because of their dependency on prescription drugs," he said.
Franklin added that the most fun portion of the class was learning new ways to add excitement to the classroom and to make DARE fun for the students.
"They want us to focus on student involvement instead of a lecture," Franklin said.
In addition to the numerous workshops, Franklin attended a banquet and was able to see the new prizes available through DARE America.
This is the first national conference Franklin has attended for DARE but he attends the state conference annually.
"I appreciate the Sheriff for allowing me to attend these conferences," Franklin said. "He really cares about keeping us trained and up to date so that we can help these kids."
The Franklin County DARE program is designed to target the three starter drugs: tobacco, marijuana and alcohol. The county's fifth grade classes are participants in the program each year.
Franklin County's DARE program is completely funded by community donations. Please contact the Franklin County Sheriff's Department at 332-8811 to see how you help support the DARE program in Franklin County.