Poison pie gets synthetics message across

Poison pie gets synthetics message across

Two West Auckland constables have taken the message about the dangers of synthetic drugs straight to some of the youngsters most at risk – with the help of a pie and some nasty chemicals.

Constable Dermot Forde, of Henderson Neighbourhood Policing Team, and Youth Aid Constable Reuben Jakich have teamed up to talk to teenagers at Alternative Education centres.

In their presentation they give an audience member a pie – then retrieve it, spray it with acetone and other nasties and offer it back.

“We say ‘Who’s hungry now?” says Dermot. “They’ll say ‘Are you trying to poison us?’ We tell them ‘Well, boys and girls, that’s what you’ve been smoking’.”

Coroners are investigating the role of synthetics tainted with dangerous chemicals in around 20 deaths in New Zealand, with West Auckland disproportionately affected.

“We’re coming across 12 and 13-year-olds smoking synthetics and I thought I’d go straight to where these kids come from,” says Dermot.

He and Reuben have presented at five West Auckland AE centres and one on the North Shore - tough audiences of youngsters excluded from mainstream education, with many facing criminal charges.

They keep the presentation short. “It’s quick and sharp – 15 to 20 minutes, not death by powerpoint,” says Reuben.

The pie is something teenagers can relate to. “In the first presentation I went to I talked about pies,” says Reuben.

“In a shop you see pies labelled ‘steak’ or ‘chicken’ – if one was labelled ‘unknown ingredients and might kill you’, would you eat that? After that we decided to use an actual pie.”

They wear casual clothes but raise the idea that some audience members might be police of the future. “The whole class – and teachers – laugh,” says Dermot.

“We say to them that we all make mistakes but some of you might make some of the best police officers. The whole point is that people can change.”

Senior Sergeant Richard Thompson, Waitakere Area Manager Community and Youth, says Dermot and Reuben have broken the ice with youngsters in advance of a planned long-term campaign on synthetics.

“What they have achieved is considerable,” he says. “The feedback has been genuinely positive and this group of kids are a tough crowd.

“They’ve created an opportunity to reach people who could be some of the most at-risk in a quick and efficient way, and to build on the conversations they’ve had.

“Giving staff the freedom to develop their own ways to achieve Police’s big-picture aims is an important part of what the Police High Performance Framework is about. I’m a big fan.”