Police department will add another school resource officer

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The Morgan Hill Police Department will hire an additional school resource officer dedicated to reducing and preventing the use of tobacco products among youth and teens thanks to a grant from the California Department of Justice, said Sgt. Bill Norman.

These includes cigarettes, vape pens, and electronic cigarettes using flavored tobacco products. The grant total is $561,649, to be expended over three fiscal. The new officer’s responsibilities will include trainings for students, faculty, and parents in both middle and high school on the dangers of tobacco use, tobacco related enforcement on school campuses and city-wide; conduct trainings for sworn personnel on tobacco-related issues occurring within our community and conduct retailer education sessions.

Grant funds also include over-time hours for police officers and multi-service officers to conduct city-wide enforcement activities at parks, events, and festivals. In addition to activities conducted by the police department, the grant includes funding for signage at city parks and facilities as well as a unique peer-to-peer education and outreach program.

The peer-to-peer program will be designed and implemented by the city’s Youth Action Council with messaging that will reach both middle and high school students.

Peer-to-peer programs have proven successful in that educational campaigns of healthy choices and behaviors resonate more with youth rather than when coming from well-meaning adults.

The Morgan Hill Police Department is also a sub-recipient of a regional grant from the County of Santa Clara to conduct operations to curb sales of tobacco products to minors.

Combined, these two grants align and support the city’s on-going commitment to supporting youth as well as the 41 Developmental Assets promoting healthy youth development. The use of tobacco by youth and teens has increased dramatically in recent years. According to the CDC, in 2015, more than three million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes. This reflects a 25 percent increase from 2014.

Furthermore, the recent passage of Proposition 64 in California, which legalizes the adult use of marijuana, could contribute to smoking both marijuana and tobacco products among youth. A study published by New England of Medicine in 2014 called e-cigarettes a “gateway drug” to nicotine addiction and other addictive drugs.

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Norman said the grant is extremely competitive. The city of Morgan Hill was one of the few agencies in the state to receive full funding for the grant request.

The Department of Justice indicated they received grant requests for twice the amount allocated for this grant.

For more information about the grant, call Sgt. Bill Norman at (669) 253-4982 or email him bill.norman@morganhill.ca.gov.

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