Police & Fire

Cops, kids and choppers: Park City’s Red Ribbon Week takes off

'The kids are just getting a chance to ... talk with officers, see that we're, you know, just normal people, just kind of humanize the badge, [which] is a big deal for our department," said Art Boxall, the Park City Police Department's school resource officer

PARK CITY, Utah — Every October, the Park City Police Department conducts its Red Ribbon Week campaign, aimed at promoting drug awareness and instilling a message of harm prevention among the town’s youth. This annual event is part of Park City’s proactive approach to address the ongoing crisis of drug abuse.

Red Ribbon Week, spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, is an annual nationwide campaign aimed at educating children and youth about the harmful effects of drug abuse. The Park City Police Department has a strong relationship with the Salt Lake City DEA office and this year, the DEA chose McPolin Elementary as one of the schools for a boots-on-the-ground initiative.

The focus has intensified in recent years due to the growing concern over drugs like fentanyl, which can be disguised as innocuous items and even mixed with other substances, posing severe risks to unsuspecting individuals, including children.

The Park City Police Department’s collaboration with the DEA, Utah National Guard, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and the units within them works to ensure that Park City’s youth are not only educated about the dangers of drugs but also have the opportunity to interact with officers in a positive and approachable environment.

“The kids are just getting a chance to walk around, talk with officers, see that we’re, you know, just normal people, just kind of humanize the badge, [which] is a big deal for our department,” said Art Boxall, the Park City Police Department’s school resource officer.

The commitment to community safety and youth education doesn’t stop at Red Ribbon Week. Park City Police and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office engage with local schools, teaching a range of classes on drugs, their health implications, and the legal aspects surrounding drug use. These classes, traditionally offered at the junior high and high school levels, have recently expanded to include fourth-grade students.

Park City is known for being a safe community, and Lieutenant Jay Randall talks about the work officers put in to engage with the city’s residents in more social settings, such as jumping in on pick-up basketball games, getting involved with the different nonprofits around town and listening to the issues/conflicts surrounding different neighborhoods by establishing themselves in them.

“We have what we call sector accountability,” Randall said. “An officer is assigned to a geographical area of the city and they go to HOA meetings, they go to different meetings within that area, and they try to come up with different issues that [these neighborhoods] are struggling with and try to overcome those things with them.”

Randall also explains the need for building trust within the Latino and Mexican communities. “Our biggest focus right now on outreach is trying to get those communities that don’t have that trust …  So we’re really trying to embrace that and realize, hey, you know what, there’s a problem here. We need to overcome this. And that a lot of it’s on us,” he said.

The PCPD has goals of hitting different topics throughout the year and as the town rolls into its busy season, its vibrant social scene ramps up, and the balance between celebrating the town’s identity as a hub for festivities and ensuring the well-being of all residents is a continuous challenge.

Community outreach efforts include raising awareness about issues like domestic violence, substance abuse, and alcohol consumption, with a focus on promoting responsible behavior to preserve the town’s unique spirit without compromising the safety and happiness of its inhabitants.

“It’s a great community, a fantastic community,” Randall said. “But unfortunately, it’s a little bit of a party town … and it’s been known for that for years, and how do you do that and find a balance where it’s not impeding and/or hurting other people.”

While the campaign spotlights a serious issue, the PCPD kept the event interactive and inviting, winning over its young audience with the K-9 Unit’s 1-year-old cocker spaniel puppy, Cooper, and the National Guard’s Lakota helicopter takeoff for the grand finale.

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