By JOSHUA STRALEY

Staff Writer

PAULDING – In a night packed with speakers, the Sheriff’s Citizens Academy showed attendees the extent of the offices’s war on drugs throughout Paulding County and Northwest Ohio. 

Sam Smith, investigator with the Multi-Area Narcotics task force (M.A.N.), kickstarted the night with a presentation of the most popular illegal drugs circulating today, including marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine and MDMA. 

Smith, who has been with M.A.N. since 2013, spoke about their undercover work across the region, including Lima, which they described as one of the “dirtiest and nastiest,” cities they have worked. 

“Every block,” Smith said. “I could go buy heroine all day long there.” 

In response to question from an attendee, Smith said they did not know if the drug problem in the state was worsening, but they said more arrests were being made. Data from Ohio’s Office of Criminal Justice backs him up.

Smith’s presentation was followed by Deputy Nick Mendez, the Paulding County D.A.R.E officer, who walked the class through the curriculum he teaches elementary and middle school students in the county. 

Additionally, Mendez highlighted the revamped D.A.R.E. curriculum. Drafted in 2013, the new itinerary focuses on teaching responsibility and risk assessment, rather than just educating children on drugs.

Nonetheless, Mendez assured the attendees that use of marijuana for middle school children has dropped over the years. 

When asked about how he addresses the topic of prescription opioids with middle schoolers, Mendez says he tackles it head on with them. 

To end the evening, Deputies Bill Lyons and Caleb Miller, and his K-9 unit Cooper, presented on their work as school resource officers. The positions were created just last year. 

Deputy Lyons outlined the three roles they want the resource officer to fill at the schools: teacher, counselor and law enforcement officer––preferably in that order.

Typically, Lyons said, the issues he deals with week to week do not ascend above vaping, bullying and sexting.  

For his part, Deputy Miller brought out K-9 Cooper––a six-year-old German Shepard, and spoke about the various jobs Cooper performs for the office, including car and drug searches and tracking.

“We have been a good fit,” Miller said. “He will put up a good fight to protect me. He put up a fight for my family.”

The Citizen’s Academy will resume next Monday at 6 p.m. at the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office for registered attendees.