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Exhibit exposes parents to warning signs

3/7/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The “Hidden in Plain Sight” exhibit for parents shows around 150 items that could signal that their child is engaged in risky behaviors, according to law enforcement officials.
This girl’s vanity is part of the “Hidden in Plain Sight” exhibit and includes at least 12 items that might be indicative of risky behaviors, according to law enforcement officials.
Photo courtesy of Marcie Mason
COPLEY — When is a pop can just a pop can – and when is it something else?

The “Hidden in Plain Sight” exhibit aims to help parents of teenagers with that question and others.

The traveling display, created by the Copley and Bath police departments nearly two years ago, features a mock-up of a teenager’s bedroom and is filled with items that parents should be on the lookout for as signs of possibly dangerous behavior. The next presentation will be March 14 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Copley High School, 3807 Ridgewood Road.

Marcie Mason, a youth worker in both communities, said adults who see the exhibit are often “astonished and amazed” at what they see and learn.

“It intrigues people,” she said. “The neat thing about it is it’s interactive — you’re not just sitting there listening to someone.”

The display came to be after Mason saw a similar exhibit created by a coalition in Toledo. The price to have the group bring the exhibit to the Akron area was about as much as it would cost to create one, she said, so Bath and Copley each contributed about $400 for the effort. Downing Exhibits in Copley donated to the effort as well.

In addition to Mason, several local law enforcement personnel were involved, including Copley’s juvenile officer Det. Paul Webb and D.A.R.E. officer Duane Scott, as well as communications specialist Lisa Baker and Sgt. Michael Clar with the Bath Police Department.

Those who worked to create the exhibit didn’t have to do much research, Mason said.

“We’re familiar with trends, and we try our best to keep up-to-date with paraphernalia and what kids are creating,” she said. “A lot of it was just talking to kids, asking ‘What do you make your pipes out of?’ and often it was Coke cans because they can be recycled.”

The officers also went to two local “head shops” and bought items and also found things online, Mason added.

There are about 150 items in the display, she said, that will provide parents with ideas of what to look for in a youth’s room to indicate that they may be engaging in risky behavior.

Not all of the items are drug-related, she said.

“There are things for eating disorders and self-mutilation, and we talk about violence,” she said.

During a program, the display is open to those who attend to explore, and they can pick up and touch the items. In some cases, law enforcement officials then present a 90-minute PowerPoint program that goes into more detail about the items included and what parents should know.

Mason said those who work with youths are always finding and hearing about new items to add to the display. Recently during a program in Springfield Township, Mason said she heard that some youths are using coffee grinders to grind drugs, so one of those has been added to the exhibit.

The presentations are open to all adults, but youths are not admitted, Mason said.

“We don’t want to give kids ideas,” she said.

“Hidden in Plain Sight” has appeared throughout the area since its debut in August 2011, Mason said, with presentations at libraries, schools and community centers. The response has been positive, and Mason said she and Bath and Copley officers are even being asked to take the display on the road into neighboring Cuyahoga County.

In addition to the Copley program, the exhibit will be presented at Woodridge High School, 4440 Quick Road, April 25 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

So far, the presentations and exhibit have been given at no charge to groups that ask to host it, Mason added, although donations are welcome.

For more information on hosting the exhibit, contact Mason at mmason@bathtownship.org or call Duane Scott at 330-666-4218.

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