At the recent meeting of Lehighton Area Drug and Alcohol Task Force, Mayor Donald Rehrig announced the formation of a community-wide Neighborhood Watch Program. He introduced Byron Schnell as the program coordinator.

"Let's educate our citizens and nip crime before it even starts," said Rehrig.

Established in 1972, Neighborhood Watch has proved to be one of the oldest and most effective crime prevention programs in the country. It brings citizens together to help be additional "eyes and ears" of law enforcement to deter crime and make communities safer 24/7.

The inaugural meeting of Lehighton Area Neighborhood Watch is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. at Lehighton Area High School. All interested community members are invited and encouraged to attend and become involved.

For more information and/or to volunteer for the program, contact Schnell at (610) 377-1926.

The task force also discussed the possibility of acquiring a school resource officer.

Addressing this matter, Lehighton Police Chief Neal Ebbert explained that the officer would be an extension of the police department with an office at the school. He or she would be present during the school day, walk the halls, and have contact with the students on a daily basis.

According to Ebbert, Lehighton Police Department has responded to 190 incidents at the high school and middle school since 2006 – including at least two last week.

"The main role of the school resource officer is educational," explained Ebbert.

The Borough of Lehighton has forwarded a letter of intent for a grant to pay for the school resource officer for two years. Currently, there is no school resource officer in Carbon County.

In other business, Lehighton Area High School Principal Tim Tkach and Assistant Principal Daniel Repsher reported that the task force will host presentations by former NBA player Chris Herren. He will speak to the community on Thursday, May 17 and to students on Friday, May 18. Herren's battles with substance abuse are the subject of ESPN's documentary "Unguarded."

Looking at additional drug and alcohol programs, Tkach and Lehighton Rotary Club President Erica Heery discussed the "Straight-Up Drug Awareness Program." It is modeled after a similar Rotary Club program in Luzerne County, where a convicted inmate addresses students and the community regarding the perils of drug and alcohol use and abuse. To date, more than 45,000 students in Luzerne County have heard this important message.

Wrapping up the meeting, Tkach asked, "How do we fix this problem of drug and alcohol abuse? Education is the key as well as realizing that we're all in this together."

The next task force meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 25 at 6:30 p.m. at LAHS.

For more information about LASD in general and the Drug and Alcohol Task Force specifically, visit www.Lehighton.org [1].