CHRISTINE WOOD/STAFF WRITER
IMAGE: Vancouver police officers and Odd Squad founding members Sgt. Toby Hinton and Sgt. Mark Steinkampf (back) stand with Sunshine Coast Youth Crime Prevention Program co-ordinator Charlene Smith after the April 19 Odd Squad presentation for parents in Sechelt.
Smoking pot has become as common as smoking cigarettes among Coast youth who are now turning to cocaine to get high.
“Cocaine’s number one. Then there’s ecstasy, which is down-graded (due to the PMMA scare). We do see hallucinogens, and pot is something just everybody does. It’s like cigarettes here,” said Youth Crime Prevention Program co-ordinator Charlene Smith during an Odd Squad presentation in Sechelt last week. “Other than that there are the odd people who use mushrooms, there’s acid, ketamine and every once in a while you do see crystal meth and crack cocaine.”
The smorgasbord of hard drugs available to Coast youth was a surprise to many in attendance at the April 19 Odd Squad presentation for parents at the Seaside Centre.
“As crazy as it seems, your kids and everybody else’s kids are getting approached with drugs and alcohol maybe not on a daily basis, but on a weekly basis they get offers. They have opportunities whether you know it or not,” Smith said.
About 30 concerned parents came out to the event that talked about local drug trends and saw two Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers talk about the “misery of drugs,” which they see daily working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
“We’re experts on the misery that drugs cause,” VPD Sgt. Mark Steinkampf told the crowd, noting Coasters are not immune to ending up living on the city streets. “We can give examples of people who have come to the area where we work. I know one girl specifically who grew up here, and we’re seeing her almost on a daily basis now.”
Steinkampf and Sgt. Toby Hinton are two of the founding members of Odd Squad, which seeks to put the facts about drugs and their devastating effects into the hands of children and parents.
It is Odd Squad’s hope that by showing impactful videos and pictures of actual drug addicts they encounter and educating the public, they can help youth make the right decision to say no to drugs.
Those in the audience April 19 saw an upcoming episode of The Beat which features Hinton, Steinkampf and other VPD officers working in the Downtown Eastside.
Troubling scenes of overdoses, interviews with addicts and the physical deterioration of those using hit the audience hard.
Later the officers showed more footage of a man bloodied and raging on his drug of choice, addicts with open wounds now wrought with gangrene and lifeless bodies collapsed after injecting an uncommonly strong strain of heroin.
The hard hitting and sometimes hard-to-take videos left an impression on the adults, who found out teens on the Coast saw the same presentation last week.
About 800 Coast students in grades 8 to 12 saw the Odd Squad presentation as part of the Youth Crime Prevention Project.
In addition to the shocking scenes offered by Odd Squad there was a wealth of drug information that explained the make up and effects of different drugs.
“I think what a lot of people don’t understand is almost all these illicit drugs have a great deal of containments in them,” Hinton said.
He gave an example using cocaine, which is often cut with a cattle dewormer called levamisole. Levamisole kills a person’s white blood cells, which are needed to fight off infection.
“About 70 per cent of coke in B.C. and Alberta has this levamisole in it,” he said, noting the officers also recently came across marijuana that was laced with morphine.
Other than illegal drugs, the officers said they are seeing a rise in the amount of prescription drug abuse on the streets of downtown Vancouver, cautioning parents to keep an eye on any prescription medication they have in the house.
Armed with enough information to worry even the strictest parent, one woman in the audience asked how she would be able to tell if her child was using a drug regularly.
“A lot of parents have concerns about that, and obviously the first foundation is going to be your lines of communication and how you communicate and deal with your kids. You can start that conversation after a video or while you’re talking to them about what the other kids are doing, and that will feed back to where they’re at,” Hinton said. “There’s a number of different resources. I like NAIDA which is the North American Institute on Drug Abuse, because it’s very scientific, and if you check out that website, you will get scientific information back.”
He encouraged parents to start the conversation and make sure their kids know about the serious downside to drug use before they are approached.
“The best way to say no is when you have something to back it up with, not just saying ‘no,’ because then they’re going to say, ‘why,’” Smith noted. “It’s best to go on these websites and talk about it with your kids so then you have a reason you can give.”
To find out more about Odd Squad and to view their resources, go to www.
oddsquad.com. To find out more about the Youth Crime Prevention Project and upcoming Children of the Street Society elementary school presentation dates, go to www.scyouth.info.