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Who DAREs wins the anti-drugs war

Emma Burstall reports as US-style tactics are pitted against pupils' substance abuse.

Primary school pupils in Nottinghamshire are to receive American-style intensive anti-drugs training in a bid to tackle growing juvenile crime.

Nottinghamshire Police will offer the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programme to all eight, nine and 10-year-olds in the county from early next year following the success of a pilot project in Mansfield.

DARE was developed in 1984 by the Los Angeles Police Department and local education authorities and is now widespread in all American elementary schools.

It aims to teach children about the danger of drugs at a much earlier age than usual, and uses extensive roleplay to show how to resist pressure from peers to experiment.

DARE was imported from the United States two years ago after two Nottinghamshire police officers attended a training course in Los Angeles.

A pilot project was set up in Mansfield and the scheme was quickly extended to all primary schools in the Mansfield and Ashfield areas.

Now, 22 more officers have just completed a two-week DARE course in Nottinghamshire taken by American police trainers, and will shortly take the messagecountywide.

Superintendent Julian Smith, in charge of Nottinghamshire Police's community affairs department, said: "We're hoping that DARE will result in Nottinghamshire having a dramatically lower level of drug abuse than other areas. We believe an enormous amount of crime is drugs-related and we think DARE will severely impact on that."

Inspector David Scott, who helped set up the pilot project in Mansfield, said the scheme had been praised in a recent report by North Nottinghamshire Health Authority and the Home Office Drug Prevention Team.

Pupils get 17 intensive one-hour sessions spread over one-and-a-half terms. Inspector Scott believes DARE is far superior to other anti-drugs programmes which either happened too late, failed to interest children or were not intensive enough.

He said it worked because it caught children when they were young enough to be influenced and involved parents and the whole community.

"All the research worldwide has shown that if drugs prevention is going to succeed you've got to get everyone working together. It can't just stop at the school gates.

"DARE is now being recognised for what it is - an excellent, off-the-shelf, ready-to-go scheme."

Nottinghamshire Police hopes to spread news of DARE throughout the UK and officers from Norfolk, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester attended the recent two-week course.

As yet, however, there are no signs that the scheme will be taken up elsewhere.

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