Some of them stared intently at the officer, while some were feverishly taking notes as he spoke.
And the rest? They had worried looks on their faces as Chris Piper, an undercover officer from the Richmond Drug Target Team, revealed the reach illegal substances has across the city.
It was an eye-opener for many in the 45-strong RCMP Youth Squad program — an eight-week program for invited Grade 10-12 students who’ve shown a special interest in the emergency services.
The students, for example, raised their collective eyebrows when Piper explained that ketamine — a horse tranquilizer with an hallucinogenic effect on humans — can be found being dealt in many Richmond schools.
It was a fascinating hour for the students; sixty minutes which culminated in them passing around bags of confiscated heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, crack and meth pipes.
They asked questions, such as “How does heroin kill you?” and “Where do you find meth?”
Piper, a nine-year veteran of the drug team, told how the squad he works with aim to “strike hard and strike fast” on the 15 drug lines known to operate currently around the city.
He told of informants and sources the unit utilizes to keep track of the drug scene in Richmond.
The students were then shown three short, but harrowing, videos: One of a drug-addicted prostitute, who told of being raped multiple times, one of a cocaine addict, who explained how he’s lost everything, and a third of a slavering man, lying prostrate on the curb from being high on ketamine.
Piper’s hard-hitting presentation was the last of seven for the students, many of whom have aspirations to join one of the emergency services when they’re old enough.
Jasmine Braun, Avery Rennie and Glen Kirkland — all Grade 12 students at McMath secondary — are three such teenagers.
“If other kids watched (the videos), they might think twice about getting involved with drugs,” said Jasmine, who’s interested in a career in law.
“I was surprised to hear about the ketamine in our schools and the meth labs in the city.”
All three said they learned a lot from the presentation about the warning signs of people involved in dealing or taking drugs and from the previous six weeks.
“It’s been great to see that people in the emergency services, especially the RCMP, are normal people,” said Avery.
Glen, who’s already actively involved in Richmond RCMP’s Crime Prevention Unit and was the only Grade 11 student from Richmond to attend the 2013 Lower Mainland RCMP Youth Academy, wants to pursue a career in law enforcement because he “loves giving back to the community” and “cares about helping people.”
“I’m really interested in how police tackle organized crime, so tonight’s presentation was very informative,” said Glen.
Cpl. Anette Martin — who spearheaded the program, along with the other emergency services and the school district — said the last two months provided a wonderful opportunity to interact with some top-of-the-barrel students.
“A lot of the time, we only really get to know the more problematic kids, so this has been very worthwhile,” said Martin, a 29-year veteran of the Mounties.
“And it’s been a great opportunity to partner with the other agencies as well.
“The program itself, I think, has given the students a sense of what a career in the emergency services is like; it’s hard not to be impressed by what they’ve seen.”
The program closes Monday with a certificate presentation ceremony.