Last night, I interviewed with NBC15 news on the “drug problem at Habermann Park” in Lodi.  The interview was a 20-25 minute discussion about our community, what LCAT is doing to support the community, and whether I felt the park was an issue. Yes, the park may be an issue, but the drugs are not explicitly limited to Habermann Park.  My reply to the reporter’s questions yesterday was edited down to the result he was looking for. This is a sad result of news reporting when multiple 20 minute interviews have to be edited down to a 2 minute segment and grab the attention of viewers.

Habermann Park as a standalone issue has been sensationalized not only in this snippet news report, but in the community.  The park, although it has its issues, is not the main drug problem in the area. At one point last year the Drug Task Force informed us that they had made over 20 arrests and were purchasing a thousand dollars a day in drugs in the Lodi Area. The majority of this action was not connected with the park at all. When we call Habermann Park the "Drug Park" we are doing ourselves and our community a disservice. Yes, Lodi has a drug problem, Yes we have had kids that die from it, but to make this issue only about a park is ignoring the major issues and the kids that are in the shadows. The question should be, what are we as a community going to do about our kids taking unhealthy risks? From the parents at home to the community leaders to the person who greets them into their place of business.

We cannot fix the drug problem by holding vigil at the park or by over policing the grounds.  Let’s fix the problem before it starts. Let’s give kids the tools they need to survive in this life without the need to escape it through alcohol and drug use. Parents and community neighbors, let’s educate ourselves about how we can create an environment for our youth that is full of healthy risks, allowing them opportunities to choose a path that is better.
For the past seven years the Lodi Community Action Team has been working to build a coalition of parents, community members, organizations, schools, law enforcement and medical agencies, to educate ourselves, built community and empower youth.   Our efforts are paying off.   The path we are on is working.   The recent results for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Lodi area shows a continued trend of both alcohol and other drug use going down.   If we continue this trend for the next 10 years, we can bring down drug use in high school aged students to under 5 % and almost eliminate it in Middle School aged students.
Lodi has a lot to be proud of and one area that indicates Lodi Pride to me is the fact that we have such a strong coalition of people working together to make Lodi a better place for our youth.

Steven Ricks

NBC 15 -News Story - Local park in the City of Lodi known to many as drug hub

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