RCMP on P.E.I. say they're looking for an alternative to DARE, a drug awareness program that uniformed officers deliver in Island schools, because of a lack of resources and time.
DARE — or Drug Abuse Resistance Education — is a 10-hour program that's delivered to students in grades 5 to 7 by specially-trained front-line police officers that addresses issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, smoking and peer pressure.
But RCMP said they are looking at alternatives that don't take as much time and that are possibly not delivered by officers.
"It comes with a human resource cost that we just can't afford to deliver right now. So we are looking at something that's shorter and we can hit a more broad audience, in terms of junior high school kids, youth in high schools, as well as bringing it to parents," said Sgt. Andrew Blackadar.
However, Charlottetown Police say they are committed to DARE.
This year the program will reach 500 Grade 6 students in the city.
That is the highest number ever, said Deputy Chief Gary McGuigan.
"Some of the officers that were trained early on, they still make contact with kids that they taught in the DARE program," said McGuigan.
"They'll come up to them when they're out shopping for groceries or the mall saying, 'Hey, remember me?' And they'll converse about the DARE program. So, you know, it is having an impact on some of these kids.
RCMP won't stop delivering DARE until there's a replacement, said Blackadar.
That could be six months to two years away, he said.
Too few resources
But Wayne Easter, federal Liberal critic for public safety and national security, said if the RCMP had more resources, vital programs such as DARE wouldn't be in jeopardy.
"It's not having enough resources to do what they need to do. Policing today is not just about arresting people and throwing them in jail. Policing today should be about prevention of crimes," said Easter.
"What the DARE program does, it gets to young people early enough that maybe you can prevent somebody from getting on drugs, prevent them from getting into crimes. That's a lot more productive than going out and just arresting somebody, throwing them in jail and throwing away the key."
Easter said the federal government has what he calls a tough-on-crime policy rather than a smart-on-crime policy.
It's the rural students who will lose out when the RCMP scales back its offering, said Easter.