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TALLMADGE -- A stuffed animal on the bed, an empty pop can on a desk, a trash can in the corner. All inconspicuous finds in a youngster's bedroom, right?
The Bath Township and Copley Police Departments brought their traveling educational exhibit, "Hidden in Plain Sight," to Tallmadge High School on Jan. 9, complete with a mock version of a teen's bedroom to demonstrate how easy it is to hide signs of drug use and risky behavior out in the open.
For parents who arrived early to visit the display, the warning signs were all there. For instance, that beloved stuffed animal, a permanent fixture on your kid's bed -- it might not be there for sentimental purposes, Copley Police Detective Paul Webb says. A closer examination reveals it has a cavity for drugs. Unscrew the bottom of the discarded soda can and you'll discover a cache of pills. And that folded tin foil in the trash bears traces of heroin, if you take the time to inspect it.
Marcie Mason, youth worker for the Bath and Copley Police Departments and juvenile offender diversion program, says the program has been presented more than 150 times since its 2011 debut. It visited Tallmadge at the invitation of the Council of PTAs, Tallmadge City Schools and the Tallmadge Police Department.
Dave Quillen became the first school resource officer in the Tallmadge City School District last fall. "Obviously there's going to be alcohol issues, obviously you're going to find marijuana," Quillen told concerned parents, "but pills are where we're finding the major problem. Pills are tiny -- they're easy to hide."
On exhibit were a variety of everyday items converted into safes to stash illegal substances or to hide scales for drug transactions. Webb said many of the items can be easily purchased online.
Among the topics of discussion was the opiate crisis in Ohio. The Tallmadge Fire Department has carried and administered the opiate antidote Narcan for a number of years. The city's police department recently obtained Narcan from the Summit County Health Department. Typically a heroin overdose victim responds pretty quickly when Narcan is administered. Saying no community is immune, Quillen reported the Tallmadge Fire Department has administered Narcan 68 times since February 2016. "We get young people who are overdosing and a lot of them, they started with pills and then moved onto heroin," he said.
Mason says she hopes parents' left the presentation with a sense of heightened awareness.
"We encourage parents to be aware," Mason reports, adding, "We do use the word 'snoop' (including electronics) in the presentation, if they have reason to believe their child might be involved in inappropriate activities (And) they should communicate with their teen if they find something."
Those who missed "Hidden in Plain Sight" in Tallmadge can see the presentation Jan. 18 at Crestwood Intermediate School, 11250 Bowen Road, Mantua. Doors open for browsing at 6 p.m. with a presentation from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The exhibit is open to adults only. There is no charge for admittance. If people cannot arrive at the designated start time, they may stop in when possible.
Mantua and Hiram Police Departments will also be involved in presenting the exhibit. For further information, contact Village of Mantua, Linda Clark, Mayor, at 330-274-8776 ext. 155.