The Hilliard Division of Police will discontinue its Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program at the end of the school year so more officers can get drugs off the streets, Chief Doug Francis told members of city council.

The Hilliard Division of Police will discontinue its Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program at the end of the school year so more officers can get drugs off the streets, Chief Doug Francis told members of city council.

"I want to end DARE for one simple reason: I need the personnel to be reassigned to different places where I feel they will be more effective," Francis said at the Feb. 27 meeting of council's public safety and legal affairs committee.

Although he considered the DARE program in Hilliard to be a success over the past two decades, Francis said he needed to be proactive instead of reactive to the growing drug problems in Franklin County.

"Every officer we have has said to me, 'Chief, we've got to go fight crime. We need some help out here. All we do is take reports,'" Francis said. "We need to arrest the drug dealers. We've got to get the drugs out of the community."

According to the police department, drug abuse cases and arrests in Hilliard are at an all-time high, up 56 percent in the past year. Police responses to drug overdoses have doubled since 2009, as have drug-related medic runs by the Norwich Township Fire Department. The NTFD responded to 83 overdoses in 2011.

Francis also cited the recent arrest of a man responsible for a string of robberies in Hilliard and elsewhere allegedly to support a heroin habit.

Ending the DARE program was part of the police department's proposed reorganization, Francis said.

"We wanted to accomplish two things: More direct supervision of our staff and I wanted to become more proactive - get out there and arrest bad guys and get drugs off the road," Francis said. "To do that, I've got to move some people around."

One of the two current DARE officers will be part of a strategic response unit to be more proactive, while the other will be assigned to a broadened community outreach function that will provide family-centered programming and act as a liaison with the elementary schools. The moves would go into effect in late June, he said.

Francis said he met with Hilliard City Schools Superintendent Dale McVey, "and he is in support of my decision to end the DARE program, but he needs help in getting the drugs out of the schools. He has told us that their incidents of drug seizures and expulsions are increasing.

"With that second officer, I have committed to the superintendent that we will not forget the school system." In addition, the department's three school resource officers will continue to serve in that capacity, Francis said.

City Council President Brett Sciotto said, "I fully support moving in a more proactive posture. The statistics bear it out."

Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt said he initially opposed ending the DARE program, but has since changed his mind because times have changed.

"What we have is a 20-year-old program that served the community well, but has reached a point where its effectiveness is quite questionable," Schonhardt said. "This is not about cutting budgets. It's about being more proactive in trying to address a problem that is clearly getting out of hand - not only our children, but all of our citizens are at more of a risk. That's why I have allowed the chief to proceed in this fashion."