Lake Placid/Wilmington Connecting Youth & Communities (CYC) is a volunteer coalition made up of educators, counselors, law enforcement, students, business owners, churches and youth groups working to curb underage drinking, tobacco and drug use in the Lake Placid Central School District since 1993. CYC received its second grant from the federal Drug Free Communities program in October 2010. We were awarded $125,000 for each of the next five years to implement activities that will change the environmental factors in Lake Placid and Wilmington that encourage or enable high school youth to obtain and use alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs.
In the application process, CYC used data from a survey of LPCS students conducted by Essex County that showed an increase in the regular use of alcohol and marijuana by students, and at younger ages, in comparison to the same survey in 2008. We also conducted our own interviews with people who work with our youth. We then created a potential work plan for the first year of the grant.
Included in the grant work plan, along with funding for more multi-media campaigns like the “I Matter” posters, funding for extra sheriff’s patrols in Wilmington and support for the Wilmington and Thomas Shipman youth centers, is funding for a drug-detection dog.
Here are some facts about the drug-detection dog:
Purchase of the dog, training of the dog and officer, and basic equipment will cost $20,000, as quoted by Baden K-9, the company from which the dog would be purchased. Further, CYC has committed to cover any other expenses of the K-9 unit for the five years of our DFC grant that would not be met by drug seizure funds.
The Lake Placid Police Department would retrofit one of its existing vehicles for the dog. A new vehicle would not be purchased.
Saranac Lake felt that its K-9 unit was very worthwhile. A letter of support from the Saranac Lake chief of police was even submitted. That letter joined letters from the Essex County district attorney, the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, New York State Police, LPCS, the Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department, Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service, Mountain Lake Children’s Residence, the Masonic Lodge, the Lake Placid Youth Athletic Association, the Adirondack Chill Softball Club, Kiwanis, the Lake Placid Afterschool Program, the American Legion, the Lions Club and the Olympic Regional Development Authority in an information packet to the village board. Additionally, other communities have provided testaments to lower burglary rates, fewer drugs in school, improved dialogue with youth, immediate search-and-rescue ability and time saved by officers in searches due to their K-9 programs.
The LPPD does not police a sleepy village of 2,750. They police a community which hosts 2 million overnight visitors annually. They routinely support the NYS Police in calls outside the village. Any tool that improves their efficiency and abilities should be welcome.
There are two NYS Police dogs in Essex County: one in Ray Brook, one in Lewis. Both dogs are trained for handler protection and search and rescue. One dog is trained for drug detection; one is trained for bomb detection. A single dog cannot be trained for both. That one drug-detection dog works with one officer on that officer’s shift, assigned to a specific detail. If that officer is not on duty, the dog is not available. In an emergency, if the dog and officer are on duty and not assigned to another detail, it would take a minimum of two hours to get a dog into Lake Placid. It is difficult to “reserve” the dog and officer for planned school searches and nearly impossible to have the dog over the course of several days for events. The Wesley Wamsganz search earlier this winter is just one example of a time when having a dog immediately available would have been a big benefit. The NYS troopers are enthusiastically supportive of a K-9 unit in Lake Placid.
The LPPD, like every department of the village, has a wish list of things it is mandated to have or would like and can’t afford. The village department heads try to find money for these things when the opportunities present themselves. They pursue money for training, for equipment, for tools to educate the public — anything that will help them provide services while not adding to local taxes. When CYC interviewed the LPPD and asked how we could help their efforts, they said they had been on the lookout for funding for a drug-detection dog for quite a while. Other individuals who work with youth in the area supported the idea. We put it in the grant as a part of a work plan to help eliminate the local factors that make underage drinking and drug use a little too easy for LPCS students. The Drug Free Communities program must have thought our plan would get good results because they funded it. When we received notice of the grant award, we contacted the village immediately and appeared at their next available meeting to present what was in the work plan.
CYC is proud of its efforts to curb underage drinking and drug use by school-aged children. The age at which LPCS students try these substances has decreased while the frequency of use has increased. Youth here believe marijuana and alcohol are easy to get, that they are not going to be caught using and that adults really don’t mind if they are drinking and smoking. The earlier kids use drugs, the more likely they are to have lifelong problems with abuse, suffer cognitive development problems and drop out of school; the more likely they are to commit crimes, be the perpetrators or victims of sexual assault and be seen in emergency rooms.
If you would like more information, please feel free to call the CYC coordinator, Angel Marvin, at 518-637-7354 or access our website: www.connectingyouth.com.