Operation Street Smart looks to increase drug awareness

PIQUA — The message of Operation Street Smart is to raise awareness of drug trends, terminology, paraphernalia and concealment techniques among those who interact with youth.

Some kids in eighth grade “know more about drugs than law enforcement. We have to change that. You have to be aware of what’s out there,” said retired Sgt. Mike Powell in explaining the rationale behind the Operation Street Smart program held Sept. 7 at Edison Community College in Piqua.

More than 150 people working in law enforcement, schools, health care and social services along with parents participated in the program presented by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Columbus. It was sponsored by the Upper Valley Medical Center Foundation.

Powell and Sgt. Dan Johnson were among those who covered a range of topics from identifying drugs of abuse to detecting drug use to sharing a collection of products available for purchase to conceal drugs.

The team provides the program around 155 times a year with increased demand as the opioid epidemic grows.

“This problem is all of our problems, not just addicts and families,” Johnson said. Powell added, “We are not here to demonize anyone who struggles with drug abuse.”

Among signs of possible drug use are excessive absenteeism/tardiness, missed deadlines, poor morale, bloodshot or watery eyes, tremors or jitters, poor coordination and hyper-excitability.

The concealment items ranged from what appeared to name brand chewing gum containers, to a variety of fake lipstick tubes, a lint roller and an array of items that could be transformed into smoking pipes. Creative flasks for alcohol shown included an umbrella and the base of pom poms

Powell described how the men visit stores selling the items in communities where they are doing a program. He encouraged people to take a close look at an item if it seems out of place in a young person’s belongings. “There are legitimate uses for many of these items, to conceal valuables and other items,” he said. “Be aware of what’s in front of us.”

For more information on Operation Street Smart visit sheriff.franklincounty.gov.