Candidates address DARE

Published 12:13 am Thursday, July 23, 2015

NATCHEZ — Sometimes during elections, candidates may make a statement that — while based in truth — may need a closer look.

The Natchez Democrat is taking that closer look at some of the statements candidates made at recent voter forums.

Today’s question looks at an assertion made during the sheriff’s race about funding for the DARE program.

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Future stories about the sheriff’s race will look at statements about non-patrol and investigation officers driving office vehicles and turnover in the office.

DARE — or Drug Abuse Resistance Education — is a law enforcement-led substance abuse prevention curriculum that some agencies offer in conjunction with local school districts.

Adams County had a DARE program at one time, but incumbent Sheriff Chuck Mayfield has for several years not participated in the initiative.

Candidate Randy Freeman has made resurrecting the DARE program a plank in his campaign, and when questioned about community policing at a recent forum he mentioned bringing it back.

During that forum, Mayfield said the DARE program ended because outside funding was cut.

“There is no grant for DARE anymore,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “Louisiana has a DARE program because it is paid for by the state, and in Mississippi it has to be funded by the county.”

Lt. Sheri Hall, the Mississippi state training coordinator for DARE, said the state has not funded DARE in any way for some time.

“At one time, there was a (legislative) earmark, 15 years ago,” Hall said. “That came through the state training center.”

Instead, local DARE programs are funded by county-level boards of supervisors, she said, though some school districts enter into memorandums of understanding with sheriff’s offices to partially underwrite the cost of a DARE officer.

The Louisiana DARE program is partially underwritten by funds deposited in the Tobacco Health Care Fund, which is funded by cigarette taxes.

Mayfield said Thursday if he was going to ask the board of supervisors for additional funds, he wants to use that money to hire another patrol deputy or investigator.

“We are always willing to go into a school or church if they ask us to,” Mayfield said.

Freeman said Wednesday even if grants don’t directly exist for DARE, plenty of grants exist that can be used in other ways.

“When you get that grant, you can take the money you would have used for that program and put it back in the budget,” he said.

Candidate Travis Patten did not specifically address DARE in the public forums, but has said he wants to take a more proactive community policing approach to addressing youth crime and drug prevention.