During a recent Saturday morning jaunt through Lehi, David Puett noticed three aerosol whipping cream cans discarded in an empty parking lot.
The Lehi insurance agent said most parents who saw the garbage would probably do nothing more than frown slightly, assuming a group of mischievous children had used the cans to squirt whipping cream at each other or some other target.Most children, however, would know immediately that a group of their peers had been using propellants in the aerosol cans to get high.
"Kids already know everything there is to know about drugs. It's their parents who are ignorant," said Puett, who founded the Affiliated Law Enforcement Coalition Against Drugs and has recently expanded the program into Weber County.
He said he believes drug abuse prevention educators are wasting their time and money by focusing their efforts on children. Instead they should be educating parents.
"Peer pressure is stronger than the effect of any program, no matter how good it is," Puett said. "Kids have an overwhelming desire to be accepted. If their friends are doing it, they're going to do it, too."
Puett's program is aimed at adults who are unaware or refuse to believe their children use drugs and alcohol with friends from church and school.
He has recently teamed up with officer Glen Peterson of the Riverdale Police Department and Deputy Bob Johnson of the Weber County sheriff's office. Both officers are union representatives for the American Federation of Government and Municipal Employees and will represent the coalition in Weber County.
They make up the law enforcement part of a team Puett hopes will include parents, educators and community and religious leaders.
"Moms and dads in predominantly Mormon communities think their kids are safe, but when it comes to what's really going on, parents are stupid," Puett said. Puett's goal is to arm parents with the knowledge they need to recognize when their children have a problem with drugs.
"Parents want to believe their children, but you can't take everything they say at face value," he said. "Children in today's society have learned to manipulate, connive, cheat and lie."
Once parents have completed his program, Puett said they'll be able to recognize a plastic tube that falls out of their child's coat pocket as a tool used to smoke crack and not a harmless gadget. Crack is a highly potent form of cocaine.
They'll also have the courage to accept their child's problem and take the steps necessary to find a cure.
Puett proposes a solution in which parents would call police when they learn their children are using drugs and ask that the children be given a citation and sent to juvenile court.
As punishment, children would then be required to complete a five-hour-long group therapy session with their parents during which they would interact with teens who have completed drug rehabilitation.
"Parents may not be able to recognize that their children are drug users, but put them in a room with peers who've used drugs and that group will know in 15 minutes," he said.