Typically when we see information about areas of prevention such as crime, substance abuse, physical and sexual abuse we tend to dwell or rely on statistics. The focus is generally on how many incidents, how many injuries, and how many deaths occurred….usually the “bad” part of the problem. We tend to overlook the “good” parts in that there are many people that don’t fall victim to crimes or abuse.
Several years ago, I attended a community-oriented policing training where the instructor focused on unique policing methods to combat problems. Some of the methods taught involved the use of billboards to deliver messages, using civil laws to combat quality of life problems, and working with others outside of law enforcement to address problems. This type of “thinking outside of the box” really hit home and my agency has used that philosophy on several ventures in the past few years.
When prevention practitioners go out to speak to our youth and parents on the dangers of substance abuse, historically it has gone like this… “27% of students in Winnebago County have used prescription drugs to get high;” “almost one out of every two high school students in the United States has used alcohol in the past 30 days.” These comments illustrate the negative side of the problem, but that’s all it is—a negative perception of our youth when in reality, most of our kids are “good” kids.
Our local drug free coalition, re”TH!NK, has recently taken the step in recognizing these “good” kids by using these statistics to highlight what is not happening. The coalition paid for the production of Prom tickets for several area high schools this spring, and on the back of each ticket there was a positive statistic such as “77% of Winneconne High School students will not get into a car with someone who has been drinking alcohol;” “61% of Winneconne High School students have not had alcohol in the past 30 days.” Another local school, Kimberly High School took those positive statistics one step further and put them on a billboard on a major thoroughfare in the community.
I heard a saying a few years back that bears repeating, “Law enforcement is one of those unique professions where success is measured by what doesn’t happen!” I firmly believe that the same holds true in the prevention field as well. We need to remember to not lose the focus on our good kids and give them the credit that they deserve!