With purses strained in departments across the board in Saratoga Springs, the 2010 budget has required numerous cuts, the most recent being the DARE program at the end of this year. Costs saved will be related to overtime, anywhere between eight and 16 hours a week, said Police Chief Christopher Cole.
With the loss of seven positions within the Department of Public Safety, services had to be reevaluated and that meant cutting the 21-year-old program. DARE officer Tony Straus committed about 40 hours a week to the program but will now be reassigned back to a full-time patrolman on the midnight shift. Cole said this will save the department money because it will no longer have to pay an officer overtime to work this night shift.
While the formal structure of DARE will be eliminated, Cole said police and the department of public safety remains committed to working with the city schools and Prevention Council. Representatives from those institutions are in the process of detailing alternative programs.
We're not going to turn our backs on these kids. We understand what we do for them is more than just telling them about drugs and alcohol; we're instrumental in really helping these kids help themselves when they find themselves in situations where they need to make decisions, peer pressure or another dangerous situation where they have to ask themselves, 'What should I do?' said Cole. "It's important that they have that sort of education and it's important to have contact with police officers in a good way to teach that they can trust the police and we're here to help."
Both Cole and Saratoga Springs Superintendant Dr. Janice White said they don't expect the loss of DARE to have a drastic negative effect or impact on the school district and community. They said that's because both will do whatever it takes to develop an alternative way to reach school-age children.