Money seized from drug dealers — $300,000 of it — will be reinvested in opioid prevention and school safety programs, Nassau County law enforcement officials announced Thursday.
The money, part of the police department’s asset forfeiture fund, will be used to pay overtime for officers to visit schools and educate students on the dangers of narcotics, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at a news conference Thursday at Hofstra University in Hempstead announcing a school safety forum next week.
The funds also will support Operation Natalie, a police program that uses mapping technology to identify drug hot spots. The department then intensifies enforcement in those communities while police and addiction experts hold town hall meetings that provide residents with information about drug prevention and treatment.
The initiative is named after Natalie Ciappa, a Massapequa teenager who died from a heroin overdose 10 years ago.
"We need to engage our families, engage our community, and we need to take care of these children that are our future," Ryder said.
The forum, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the David S. Mack Sports & Exhibition Complex at Hofstra University, will focus on three pegs of school safety — preventing cyberbullying, opioid abuse and an active shooter.
Law enforcement, drug treatment experts and opioid addiction survivors will be on hand for lectures and demonstrations, officials said. The forum, which is expected to attract up to 3,000 people, is the biggest of its kind ever held in Nassau.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said it's "inconceivable" that a forum is needed to discuss how to prevent a mass shooting.
She said law enforcement is "trying to make sure that their schoolroom is a place where they can learn and flourish, not where they are dodging bullets. Not where they are trying to escape a bully. Not where they are trying to avoid drug dealers in their hallways. Let's return our schools to places of learning."
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said law enforcement can't implement these changes alone.
"Parents, students, school personnel, neighbors, friends," Curran said. "We invite all of you to Tuesday's forum to be part of the conversation and part of the solution."