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Friday, October 30th, 2009

Program helps adults spot drugs

By Margie Wuebker
COLDWATER - Increasing drug activity in the community led Coldwater Police Chief Randy Waltmire and others to bring members of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office to the village this week for a special Operation Street Smart presentation.
The program drew not only police officers, school personnel and village officials but representatives of various churches throughout the community.
"Drugs are definitely here," Waltmire said. "We've seen a big spike with 53 drug-related charges filed to date in 2009 and 16 of those involved juveniles under the age of 18. We need to be aware of today's drug culture because unfortunately it is not going away."
Presenter Michael Powell brought along plenty of props ranging from key fobs, toys, highlighters, tire gauges, pens, mason jars, Chapstick, pacifiers, lollipops, gardening gloves, brightly colored beads and even glass tubes containing miniature roses.
He looked over the seemingly harmless collection before warning the audience, "What you see is not what you get where drugs are concerned."
The bottles that appeared to contain water or soft drinks come apart with quick twists of the wrist revealing hollow tops and bottoms used for storing drugs - the same type of container sports star Michael Vick had at the time of his arrest. Familiar household cleaner labels and even a can of chicken noodle soup with a popular red and white label share a similar purpose. Items like pacifiers and lollipops keep kids from biting their tongues during drug-laced rave parties. Tire gauges and those cute little tubes with roses available in most variety stores can be broken down into drug paraphernalia.
People intent on smoking their favorite drugs once resorted to stealing antennas from cars and trucks until manufacturers did away with the hollow design. Now they use other things including popular 99 cents pens available at most stores, Powell said.
Even the terms young people use have far different meanings than one might suspect. Mushrooms or 'shrooms are not ordinary run-of-the-mill pizza ingredients. Blunts are cigars that can be hollowed out and filled with marijuana, while fruity pebbles and rice krispies are harmless looking snacks laced with marijuana.
"People we nab often tell us they began with alcohol in middle school," Powell said. "Alcohol is definitely a problem but too many times it leads to other drugs."
Those drugs often go by such names as crack, ice, Ecstasy, biscuits, tootsie rolls, smartees, rocket fuel, dummy dust, strawberry quick, mad apples, Molly's tic tac, Triple C, purple sprite, locoweed, angel's trumpet, pussycat dolls, chimney magic, purple footballs, cheese, black tar, co-co puffs and purple sticky.
Unsuspecting adults, including parents and teachers, have no idea that a drug-related conversation could be taking place when they hear such terms as parachuting, shake 'n bake, candy flipping, dusting, candy stripers, getting smart on the weekend and chasing rainbows. Rappers often lace their songs with such terms that literally fly under the radar.
Powell said powerful cartels ship drugs from faraway places like Mexico, South America, Russia, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan. With more attention focusing on the Mexican border, drug lords are now bringing their goods into the U.S. via Canada. Drugs showing up here in Mercer County emanate from Detroit, Toledo, Lima and Dayton, he said.
However, the most common source is no farther away than the medicine cabinets of parents and grandparents. The practice, which is known as Pharm-ing, yields all sorts of prescription medication including popular and potent painkillers like OxyContin and Fentanyl. Powell spoke about parties taking place throughout the state where teenagers bring pilfered meds and toss them into a communal bowl for sampling.
Instead of saving leftover prescription medication for later use, Powell recommends adults destroy unused pills to remove temptation.  
Coldwater schools Superintendent Rich Seas praised the "eye-opening" presentation and added it shows the importance of attacking the problem early when middle school students begin experimenting with alcohol.
"Alcohol is a huge problem here, but it is merely the window to the next level," he said. "Drugs are a problem and now we need to figure a way to get the message to parents."
The program took place through a collaborative effort with the Coldwater Exempted Village Schools and the village of Coldwater.
Additional online story on this date
Dennis Hecht was named Citizen of the Year 2009 at the Rockford Chamber of Commerce banquet Thursday night.
A man with a long history of community service, he has served as president of the Rockford Lions Club and coordinator of the club's variety show and eighth-grade fish fry. [More]
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