Niagara Gazette


June 3, 2014

Game Changers anti-drug program to return to Falls

Niagara Gazette — From the front lines in the war on drugs there is a changing view on how to attack the problem.

Just ask U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent-in-Charge of the Buffalo Office Michelle Spahn.

"Each day, the DEA works with other law enforcement partners to remove violent criminals, and the illegal narcotics trafficking they are frequently involved with, from the streets of our neighborhoods," she said at a Monday morning news conference at the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club. "Still, our young people continue to fall victim to violence and drug abuse. We think, with education and awareness, the best defense (to these problems) is a good offense."

So, partnered with federal prosecutors, Falls police, the city administration and a long list of  community sponsors, Spahn said the DEA with stage another full-court press of drugs and gangs with its second Game Changers basketball training program in the Cataract City. The program is modeled after the highly successful Saturday Night Lights initiative in New York City.

"It will teach at-risk youth how to make better choices," Spahn said. "Research shows sports and motivational counseling is effective in reducing crime."

Spahn said last year's summer program in the Falls attracted about 100 participants. The eight-week program is designed for youth between the ages of 9 and 18 and will begin at the Boys and Girls Club gym on 17th Street on Friday. 

The program runs from 6 to 9 p.m. each Friday and will conclude with a special event at Niagara University on Aug. 1.

First Assistant United States Attorney J.P. Kennedy said the program's message is a simple one.

"We can't prosecute our way out of all the problems facing our cities today," Kennedy said. "I would encourage (kids in the Falls) to take advantage of this opportunity. It will lift you up and not put you down."

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