Parents look closely at common household items that could be used to hide or smoke drugs or stash other contraband in a teenager's room. During a walk through the simulated bedrooms, DARE officers pointed out the obvious and the not-so-obvious items that could be a sign of a drug abuse or behavior problems for a teen. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, September 20, 2013 9:02 PM
LAKE ARTHUR — At first glance, the two bedrooms look like any teenagers’ rooms: clothes scattered on the floor, desks and tables cluttered with school supplies, makeup, jewelry, CDs, books.
But behind the clutter, lurk dozens of common items used to hide drugs, alcohol, weapons and other contraband.
“Just because there is something in the room doesn’t mean there is actually an issue, but you have to look at the whole picture,” Jeff Davis Parish DARE officer Gale Richard said. “You have to look at their grades. Who they are hanging out with and where they are going? Anything that can raise a red flag is worth looking into.”
On Friday, dozens of parents and grandparents experienced the Hidden in Plain Sight awareness program. Deputies stashed drug paraphernalia and other contraband — some hidden in plain view — in mock-up bedrooms at the Lake Arthur Community Center.
“The program is to educate the parents and make them aware of the social issues facing teens and places they can hide drugs,” Richard said.
DARE officer Mika Miguez added that it is not just drugs and alcohol. Many youths are confronted by suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, bullying, sexual activity and other issues, she said.
“Parents need to be parents and be aware,” Richard said. “There are a lot of objects and issues right there in their face. A lot of things parents see in their kid’s room could be one thing, but can be used as something else.”
During a walk through the simulated bedrooms, DARE officers pointed out the obvious and the not-so-obvious items that could be signs of drug abuse or behavior problems.
Innocent-looking items like an apple, toys, duct tape, water bottles, soda cans, tennis balls, clothing, CD cases or plants, could be used to hide or smoke drugs or stash other contraband, Miguez said. Certain colors and numbers could be a sign of gang involvement. A darkly written poem, a sign of suicidal thoughts.
“Parents take many of the items for what they are and what they see, but they need to look closer,” Miguez said.
The number 420 is a reference for April 20, known as National Weed Day. The number also represents the time of day — after school — when many teens smoke or do drugs.
All props for the rooms were bought legally. Some were purchased locally, others online, Richard said. Some were made using everyday items found in the home, including toilet paper rollers, eye drops, makeup, stuffed animals and cleaning supplies.
“Parents need to look around and pick things up,” Richard said. “Read things. They need to check things out and see what they are and not worry about snooping in their kids’ rooms.”
As the mother of three children ages, 9, 13 and 15, Shawntell Simon of Lake Arthur is familiar with her children’s bedrooms, but found the display disturbing.
“It’s a good program because it’s an eye-opener,” she said. “I didn’t know children could hide all this (drugs) this way. It’s creative the way they do it.”
Clara Touchet, who has four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, said things are much different now than when she raised her children.
“They had alcohol, but they didn’t have drugs like this,” Touchet said. “They went to school and back home.”
Touchet said it is scary to realize what children are doing these days.
Leeann Wall, of Lake Charles, was not as surprised at the many items hidden in plain sight. Wall works with juveniles and was already aware of a lot of the creative ways teens hide things from parents.
“But for those who don’t deal with it all the time, it could be an eye-opener,” she said.
Although she has no children, Connie Thomas of Mamou found the program both educational and enlightening since she works with youth.
“It’s a great help to parents so that they will know what to look for,” Thomas said, adding that many of the signs are hidden in plain view, but not so obvious to parents.
Parents also learned warning signs of addiction and steps to take if a child is using alcohol or other drugs.
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The next Hidden in Plain Sight program will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, in the Welsh Community Center, 101 Palmer St. in Welsh. The exhibit is free and open to adults. For more information, call Richard at 337-658-4902 or Miguez at 337-377-3681.