The Aberdeen Proving Ground Police Department and the Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute hosted police from across Maryland for training called "Current Trends IV: More than Locks and Lights" at the Aberdeen Area Recreation Center July 7 and 8.

The training gave police officers a chance to receive up-to-date information on current trends and problems that are affecting their community and a chance to discuss and share current issues.

Some of the topics discussed were domestic violence, prison gang behavior, prescription and over the counter drugs, homeland security and terrorism and financial exploitation.

Mike Farlow, APG community police officer, said that APG is happy to host the annual police training on post and that his team is always looking for ways to serve the community.

"The APG Police continually strive to take a proactive approach concerning the safety and well-being of the community we serve," Farlow said.

Domestic violence
Private First Class Bonita Linkins, a community resource officer who works for the Howard County Police Department, talked about her experience as a domestic violence survivor. Linkins said that she wanted to share her experience with other police officers who frequently get called to handle domestic disputes. Linkins said she wanted to provide a victim's perspective of why she stayed in an emotional, verbal and physically abusive relationship.

"I became someone with a bad secret in life, domestic violence," she said.

Linkins said that she stayed in the abusive relationship for 13 years but that she kept it a secret because she didn't want to seem weak.

"It was a pride thing," she said.

Linkins said that while she was with her ex-husband she decided to become a police officer to make a better living for her children.

She said that she excelled in police academy training, even earning a leadership award. She said that she felt that if she told her secret she would be eliminated from the academy.

"I received a leadership award when all hell was breaking loose at home," she said.

Linkins added that because of her military background and police training people saw her as a strong, confident woman and someone that people could come to with their problems. She said she did not want to admit that she too had a problem.

Linkins said that after she had the courage to leave her partner she decided to end her silence and share her story with others. For more information on her story, visit her Web site at www.ydidistay.com.

Prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse

Officer George Stephens, a recruitment officer who works for Montgomery County, talked to police officers about prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse.

He said that the use of marijuana, alcohol, cocaine and heroin is down among teens, while prescription drug abuse like Ritalin, Valium, OxyContin and over-the-counter cough syrup, is on the rise.

He said that some parents are in denial about drug use with their kids. They think that it can't be their kid. Stephens said that most teens view hard drug users, like Methamphetamine addicts, as "losers," but OTC and prescription drug abuse does not have a stigma attached.

The drugs are readily available, and because these medicines are sold in a store, many children and teens feel that they cannot be dangerous, he said. Abusers of OTC and prescription drugs can easily overdose or take a deadly combination of pills, so it shouldn't be taken lightly.

He said that one very popular drug right now is dextromethorphan, a common active ingredient in cough syrup. Common slang terms for this drug are Dex, DXM, Robo, Skittles, Syrup, Triple-C and Tussin. When following medicine label directions, the ingredient dextromethorphan produces few side effects and has a long, safe history. When abused in large amounts, it can produce a "high" feeling, or an out-of-body sensation, as well as a number of dangerous side effects, he said.

Common effects include confusion, dizziness, double or blurred vision, slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, numbness of fingers and toes and disorientation.

Side effects can be worsened if used with other medications, alcohol or illegal drugs. Brain damage can also result from abusing these drugs. Neurotoxicity occurs when the brain is exposed to natural or artificial toxic substances, like dextromethophan.

Prescription drugs can also be easy for teens and children to obtain. Prescription drugs that are abused or used for nonmedical reasons can alter brain activity and lead to dependence.

According to www.addictions.org, the most commonly abused prescription drugs fall into three categories: opioids, central nervous system stimulants and central nervous system depressants. Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain relief, stimulants for narcolepsy and Attention Deficit Disorder, and depressants for anxiety and sleep disorders. Long-term use of opioids or central nervous system depressants can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Taken in high doses, stimulants can lead to compulsive use, paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, and irregular heartbeat. Prescription drug abusers can obtain pills at home or through extended Family or friends. With the rise of text messaging through phones, they can easily communicate with each other about parties, called "pharm" parties, where pills are mixed together in a bowl, to make what they call a "trail mix."

"These parties are attractive to some teens and children because there is the thrill of the unknown," he said. Stephens recommended that parents safeguard prescription drugs by locking them in a cabinet. Stephens added that many parents lock liquor in a cabinet, and that these drugs should be treated the same way.

He also suggested that parents carefully keep track of how many pills are in a bottle or packet, and keep track of refills. He recommended that parents should control the medication and monitor dosages and refills if the child or teen is prescribed a drug or medication. He said that educating children and teens about drug use can be an effective way to prevent drug abuse. He said that children who learn about the risks of drugs from parents are up to half as likely to use. Teens are still influenced by their parents and grandparents.

It is important to keep the lines of communication open so that children and teens feel comfortable talking with their parents.

Also, parents should be aware of what children and teens are looking at online. There are some Web sites that promote OTC and prescription drug abuse and recommend combinations of drugs that could be very harmful, if not deadly.

For more information about OTC and prescription drugs go to: www.dare.com, www.theantidrug.com, and www.pride.org/slangdrugterms.htm

Financial exploitation

Bruce Lohr, a community crime prevention specialist, presented financial exploitation, which is fraud and other schemes designed to take money.

Lohr said that people are more likely to be scammed during difficult economic times because more people are looking for extra money, and "get rich quick" schemes sound appealing.

Lohr added that scams can happen to anyone, but the elderly are most targeted since they are perceived to be more trusting and polite.

"A good rule to follow, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is," he said. Con artists will try to gain your assets by gaining your trust. "They will use phrases that sound appealing, such as, 'cash only,' 'last chance,' 'special offer,' 'today only' and 'only available to a select few.'"

Lohr said some people do not want to appear rude or are more susceptible to pressure. He said to not give in to pressure on the spot or believe that you'll receive special treatment.

Telemarketing

Lohr said that telemarketing fraud is common, scamming people of $40 billion per year.

Telemarketers will call with deals of vacations magazines, etc., or solicit for phony charities. Lohr told attendees to verify they are legitimate by asking for their phone number, tax exempt status, and written materials and tell them that you will call them back.

"Never give out personal information during an unsolicited call," Lohr said.

Fraud at the door

Lohr said that another common scam is fraud at the door, which can take the form of a "friendly" home repair person that shows up unsolicited at the door, who in reality has little or no home repair experience.

"These people might start the work and never finish," he said, "or cause damage to the home."

Lohr said that the best way to go about home repairs is to obtain estimates from a reputable repair person and to hire someone who is referred to by friends, Family or neighbors.

Phony inspectors can also come to the door unannounced, telling the resident that they are checking a problem.

"Verify all people at your door," he said. "Keep strangers outside, don't invite them in."

Lohr said to obtain info on a reputable repair person or business, check with the local jurisdiction's consumer affairs division, Better Business Bureau, as well as the Maryland Attorney General's Office, Maryland Home Improvement Commission in regards to contractors, and friends, Family and neighbors.

Internet scams

Lohr said that people frequently fall for e-mail scams because there is usually an element of surprise, in the form of a "pop up" or an unsolicited e-mail. He said that the best way to avoid being scammed online is to avoid e-mails asking for personal information, avoid opening unsolicited or unknown e-mails, check online privacy policies when going online, use anti-virus, spyware, and keep protections updated.

"It is important to keep in mind, you never know who you are communicating with on the computer," Lohr said. "People aren't always who they say they are."

Medical scams

Lohr said to beware of scams through false products, discounts and false claims.

Verify products through trusted and reputable doctors," Lohr said. "It could cost you your life."

Fraud through the mail

Some examples of fraud through the mail include:

Debt consolidation, magazine subscriptions, fake contests, insurance, get rich quick schemes, phony investments and vacation packages that have hidden fees.

Prevention tips

Lohr said that there are several prevention tips to keep in mind that will help keep finances safe:

Become familiar with the resources in the community that help people
Establish a relationship with a bank

Put financial instructions in writing, and be specific

Keep accurate and up to date financial instructions

Avoid using joint accounts except with a spouse

If using a joint account, set up so two signatures are required on checks or withdrawals over a
certain amount.

Never give out ATM information

Be careful when using ATM cards

Be aware of work at home schemes

Never draw money out of an ATM and give it to strangers.

Never rearrange finances without consulting a reputable professional

Don't pay for anything on the grounds that it has been ordered by a deceased relative

Lohr said that there are resources that will help consumers if they feel that they have become a victim of financial exploitation such as the local police, the Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division and the Federal Trade Commission.

(Editor's note: Some information for this article was taken from www.drugfree.org.)



Warning signs of drug use
Courtesy of National Crime Prevention Council
Change in moods
More irritable
Secretive
Withdrawn
Overly sensitive
Inappropriately angry
Euphoric
Less responsible
Late coming home
Late for school or class
Dishonest
Changing friends
Changing lifestyles
New interests
Unexplained cash (more or less)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16