Watford City PD combats underage drug and alcohol problem

WATFORD CITY, N.D. - The Watford City Police Department says they've seen increase in underage alcohol, tobacco, and narcotic use in the area. Officers are now working to combat that problem using a program that has been proven to work in some of the biggest cities in North Dakota.

Instead of teaching children to "just say no to drugs", the 10-week D.A.R.E. curriculum gives students tools they need to control their behavior and make good decisions in all aspects of life. Sgt. Andy Schatz and Sgt. Jeffrey Jensen say that after spending two weeks of intense training in Saint Paul, Minn., they are now ready to bring what they learned to children of their city.

"It's definitely something I think our community needs. There's a lot more of that type of stuff around here than there should be for an average community of this size. So, our young people are definitely going to have to make some decisions about that,” explained Schatz, school resource officer for Watford City Police Department.

D.A.R.E. is an evidence-based program, which is why the Watford City Police Department chose it over other programs. In North Dakota school districts where D.A.R.E. has been implemented, yearly surveys show the number of students engaging in underage drinking or drug use have gone down.

"Dickinson, Williston, Minot, Bismarck, all of the major hub cities in North Dakota have the D.A.R.E. program, and are very successful with the D.A.R.E. program. It was just second-nature for us to say we need to bring it to Watford City" said Jensen, Watford City Police Department PIO.

Not only will they bring D.A.R.E. to the schools, but to parents as well. This spring, the police department will host a teen opioid prevention event for parents.

"Teenagers initially get their prescriptions or find their drugs at home. In the medicine cabinet in their own home," said Jensen.

To start, there will be one curriculum for fifth graders, and then in a few years there will be classes for seventh graders as well.

The D.A.R.E. program in Watford City is set to start during the 2019-2020 school year.