By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — As part of the ongoing struggle against underage alcohol abuse, which could increase during the idle days of summer, the Niskayuna Police are well-prepared to crack down on teen drinking, in partnership with surrounding towns.
On June 24, the Niskayuna Community Action Program sponsored a training session through their Drug-Free Communities grant that focused on environmental prevention strategies.
“Our presenter comes from downstate, a retired police officer and [district attorney],” N-CAP President Denise Leader said. The presentation was about identifying problems and developing environmental strategies, which involve making alcohol less accessible, less socially acceptable, and more thoroughly regulated and enforced.
In attendance were substance-free community groups from Niskayuna, Troy, Columbia County, Greene County and Catholic Charities.
Leader said the training was valuable in different ways to each community. At one point, she had commented that something wasn’t relevant in Niskayuna.
“Someone spoke up and said, well, it does apply in Troy,” Leader said. “So they hit on a variety of topics.”
It was crucial for the training that community members from outside Niskayuna’s immediate area were present.
“You can’t just work on your own,” Leader said. “You have to involve the faith community. You have to involve the schools. You have to involve the town and police department. You all have to work together.”
Kristin Sweeter, N-CAP’s Drug Free Communities Grant Coordinator, said the training’s purpose was twofold: not just to connect communities to each other, but to connect them with their police departments. “A lot of the coalitions came as well, and a lot of community folks, to learn how to engage local police and how to gauge law enforcement,” she said. “Sometimes that can be a bit intimidating for communities.”
Eleven Niskayuna police officers were at the training, making up about a third of the trainees.
One Niskayuna officer, Alan Bell, said the training was effective. “It’s also given us an opportunity to sit here with community members so they see us, we see them, they know we all have the same common goals,” he said.