Junior Police Academy graduates 22

Program teaches students to stay away from drug use

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  • Sparta Police Chief Ernie Reigstad and Sergeant John Beebe with the newest members of Sparta Police Youth Division. photos by rose sgarlato

  • A message from Sparta Police Youth Division.

  • Residents of Daytop Village tell their stories.

  • Sussex County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Officer Det. Kieran Morrow.

  • Patrice Reilly from the Center for Prevention and Counseling in Newton talks to talks to members of the Sparta Police Youth Division about the dangers of alcohol abuse at this past week's Sparta Police Junior Police Academy held at the Sparta PAL. photo submitted by the sparta police department

  • Sparta Police Sgt. John Lamon, a former undercover narcotics officer, shows members of the youth division what packaged heroin looks. The Department's Certified Drug recognition Expert Cpl. Brian Hassloch looks on. photo submitted by the sparta police department

By Rose Sgarlato

— The Sparta Police Youth Division held its annual Junior Police Academy, a special three-day program on Aug. 20-22 at the Sparta PAL Building.

“This three-day program is a hard graphic, no nonsense look at substance abuse. Our intention is to educate the kids and if they develop a healthy fear it’s good.”
Sparta Police Sgt. John Beebe

The 22 graduates will join the existing 116 members of the Sparta Police Youth Division.

The youth division was established in 2013 to combat the growing drug epidemic that has developed in the Sparta community.

Sparta had 29 residents overdose on heroin resulting in seven deaths in 2012, according to Sgt. John Beebe, who spearheads the division along with Police Chief Ernie Reigstad,

“Heroin once considered an inner-city problem now has a strangle hold in this community,” said Beebe. “The state of New Jersey is now known as the heroin capital in the U.S.”

Beebe said that all age groups ranging from 15 to 73 take the drug, and 90 percent of the crimes committed in Sparta are attributed to heroin.

‘We had to come up with a better way to connect with kids,” said Beebe. “This three-day program is a hard graphic, no nonsense look at substance abuse. Our intention is to educate the kids and if they develop a healthy fear it’s good.”

Residents of Daytop Village, an in-patient treatment center in Mendham, participated in the program by relating their personal experiences with substance abuse to the group. The Daytop patients range in ages from 13 to 17 and most are in court mandated treatment.

John Cerrato is the Director of Family Therapy at Daytop Village and was on-hand to oversee the visit.

“The residents are raising awareness and telling their stories today and also what they are changing about themselves. These are hardcore stories, and the kids listening are not sure how to react,” said Cerrato. “This is our way of giving back to the community.”

Cerrato addressed how parents become in crisis when dealing with a drug addict and as a result it affects the whole family and younger siblings often feel isolated.

Over the three days, graphic videos are shown of recovering addicts as well as actual forms and paraphernalia of heroin.

“I got to see what heroin looks like and how it changes people before and after,” said Laramie Kipp, 11.

Many other valuable lessons were learned including the drugs impact on people from all backgrounds.

“If you hang out with the right people, you are not going to be in this situation,” said Sparta fifth-grader Norah Monighan.

Caleigh Walsh, who is entering sixth grade this September at Sparta Middle School, joined the group for a very specific reason.

“I wanted to make sure this stuff doesn’t happen to me," she said. "I don’t want any interference. I learned stories and ways that you can be lured in."

It was a general consensus from the group that the biggest message they learned was that it takes courage to say no.

“I heard their stories and you have to say no to people offering you something,” said Matthew Heim, a sixth grader at Sparta Middle School.

Beebe addressed the group, emphasizing that making right decisions the first time is critical.

“There are no do-overs. There is no mistake here, only one decision to be made,” said Beebe.

The Sparta Police Youth Division is open to all students from fifth grade and older. Monthly meetings will resume in October and parents can also attend.

For more information email jbeebe@spartapd.org or call 973-726-4050.

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