A PSNI schools liaison officer has stressed the importance of developing an understanding of drug awareness among young children.
Police officer Brian Herron visits primary and secondary schools around Newtownabbey throughout the year teaching them about citizenship and safety issues.
He said it is vital that young children, particularly those in P7, are taught about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.
He told the Times: “There is a window between the age of 10 and 16 which I consider to be vital to get to children and educate them on the dangers of drugs and what it can lead to.
“And in actual fact by the time they get to 15 or 16 it can be too late.”
He went on: “The children go from primary school to secondary school and for many it is a huge change for them and there can be many pitfalls they can fall into.
“That is why it is vital to get to primary school aged children - some people may not like the idea - but it is important to unwrap some of the cotton wool that they have been wrapped up in before going to big school.” Brian said the prevention work carried out by the PSNI was a vital tool in fighting crime in the area.
He said: “The prevention work the PSNI does is fantastic and it is important to stress that drug abuse around Newtownabbey is not as bad as it is in many other areas.
“Many children that we talk to do not realise that cannabis is even illegal and think nothing will happen to them if they are caught with it.
“But we try and illustrate to them the path that drug abuse can lead to. It starts with a small bit of cannabis and before you know it there are harder drugs involved and people turn to crime in order to feed their habits. It is a very dangerous road and one that can completely change the path of someone’s life.
“That’s why it’s so important to get the message into the minds of young people.”