ATLANTIC CITY — In the 30 days prior to Sunday morning, New Jersey saw 600 overdoses and 86 drug-related fatalities, James W. Carroll said Monday afternoon to a room full of hundreds of law enforcement officers.
But the numbers that officials don’t know are important, too, said Carroll, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, known as President Donald Trump’s “drug czar,”
“What we don’t have and what we can’t track are the lives impacted by (Law Enforcement Against Drugs),” he said. “We can’t track the number of kids who have had a LEAD instructor … and know how many, because of him, because of the support and training he’s gotten from LEAD, won’t go down that path.”
Carroll gave the keynote speech at the LEAD conference held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
It’s an evidence-based program used in South Jersey and around the country that aims to educate kids about the negative effects of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, while arming them with the tools to resist peer pressure and bullying, officials said.
But it also serves another purpose — giving kids a firm, positive foundation with their local law enforcement.
Carroll said officials and members of law enforcement are facing the “greatest drug threat this country has ever known” while talking about prevention efforts, saying that for every dollar invested on prevention, the return on investment — when people don’t have to end up in treatment — is $15.
“You all know it, those of you who work drugs on the street,” Carroll said. “This is the most dynamic, challenging and honestly the most violent time in our history in terms of trafficking.”
And the life lessons officers in the classroom pass down to students about making proactive, conscience decisions hold true into adulthood, Atlantic City police Sgt. Kevin Fair said.
In addition, as the students learn about the officers and vice versa, relationships are built.
“Those connections are instrumental to our partnership with the community,” he said, adding they feed the Junior Police Academy, the Police Explorers program, PAL and other youth-related events.
Patrolman Anthony Micciche, who teaches the program to sixth-grade students in Lower Township, echoed Fair when he described the positive effects of the program.
“You want them to be confident,” he said. “And the goal is, if you have interactions with them in the future, they feel comfortable talking to you.”
Interacting with students in a positive way through the program has a humanizing effect, said Eric Coombs, school resource officer at Richard M. Teitelman School in Lower Township.
He plans on rolling out an eighth-grade curriculum this spring.
“I think it’s cliché, but when they say, ‘If it helps one person, we did our job,’” he said. “And one kid’s life is irreplaceable.”
Carroll said the program and the law enforcement involved have the full support of the White House.
“We just have to be just as battle-ready, tested, trained and equipped as possible,” he said. “It’s also what we’re here for today, which is to support LEAD, and to support your efforts in the classroom and in the community, because that’s where we’re going to ultimately win this battle.”