Campers Send Drug Dealers Message: 'Leave Me Alone'

August 01, 1991|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

Six-year-old Rachel Shannon knows all about crack cocaine and marijuana -- the first-grader is learning about them in school.

In an authoritative voice, Rachel, a student at Belle Grove Elementary Schoolin Brooklyn Park, tells what she would do if a dealer tries to peddle his wares.

"Say, 'No, thank you,' " she said. "They better leave me alone. Idon't want no trouble. I'll tell them: 'If you don't leave me alone,I'll tell my parents.' "

Rachel is one of about 750 county children who have signed up with the county police department's SPARE program -- Summer Playground Anti-Drug Recreation Effort.

The five-weekprogram is run by police and the Department of Parks and Recreation.It costs $55 per child.

About six county police officers travel once a week to seven elementary schools and the Freetown Recreation Center, teaching elementary and junior high school children not only how to avoid drugs, but also how to build self-esteem.

The program, says Capt. Richard Smith, who heads the Community Relations Bureau, is an offshoot of DARE, or Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

"The unique thing about (SPARE) is that with DARE, the children are in a structured environment," he said. "But this is more casual."

The program lasts 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. When officers, who wear shorts to class, are not teaching the children in a classroom setting, they spend time on the playground with them.

Yesterday, County Executive RobertR. Neall visited Brooklyn Park Elementary School to view the programand talk with children.

"In my former life as drug czar, we inaugurated the DARE program," said the state's former drug administrator."I think this is a natural extension of it."

Using public schoolsduring the summer makes sense, Neall said.

"I hope we will be able to expand the program next year," he said. "It's a place for the kids to blow off steam."

Most of the kids thought the anti-drug training will come in handy.

"Just in case it happens to me," said Nisa Menta, 9, a fourth-grader at Brooklyn Park Elementary. "First we walk away, then we run away."

Christina Harmon, 15, volunteered to work with the kids in the program.

"I like kids, and I want to help," the Lindale Middle School eighth-grader said. "In school there areproblems, and people selling drugs will approach us when no one elseis around. Most of them are in ninth or 10th grade."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.