For the week of March 24, 1999  thru March 30, 1999  

Growing up in a tourist town

Changes in state law and new programs in Blaine County are keeping more and more kids away from lives of crime. County law enforcement officers and counselors are seeing fewer and less serious offenses by local juveniles.

That’s good news. But to give every child a ticket to a healthy adult life, the professionals need more help.

Over the last three years, petty theft, shoplifting, assault, battery and curfew offenses have declined. Offenses involving burglary and weapons have stayed about the same. Offenses including aiding and abetting, disturbing the peace, driving under the influence, minor consumption, and malicious injury to property have gone up.

With better resources, tougher punishment and better local intervention, valley kids have a good chance of avoiding a life of crime and growing up with their lives intact and a bright future ahead.

Blaine County can be proud of programs like Project Respect, the Detour Program and parent training programs. They can be proud of the juvenile court system that has used tougher standards set up by the Legislature in the Youth Corrections Act of 1995 to try to turn troubled kids around.

The bad news is the assessment by local counselors that part of the problem for valley kids is a tolerant local attitude toward alcohol and drugs, along with easy availability.

In part, the problem is rooted in a tourist-based economy. The valley doesn’t manufacture widgets for a living; it manufactures good times. For impressionable kids, our towns offer mixed messages.

During summer and winter seasons, the place can look like one continuous party. It’s deceiving and for kids, the deceit can be deadly.

Adults know that no life is a continuous party. They also know that no one, but no one, survives a diet of drugs and alcohol.

After all the carnage on our highways caused by drunken drivers, after all the lives destroyed by drugs, it’s hard to understand why we can’t or won’t get the message to kids.

Just because kids grow up in tourist towns shouldn’t mean they have to become handicapped by drugs or alcohol. The pros alone can’t save them. It will take healthy attitudes by valley parents, friends and businesses to help kids figure it out.


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