Don’t you DARE call me

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2003

I don’t buy from telemarketers. When at home, I usually hang up. When I work, sometimes I like to interrupt them and say I have to take another call, put them on hold and then sit back and see how long they will stay on the line until they hang up.

I’m referring to the well-trained, polished professional telemarketers, of course. Even if they are calling on behalf of a local school or police organization, I will not deal with them. I would rather write a check directly to the organization than give a cut to the telemarketers.

But that’s just me. Telemarketing is a highly effective sales tool and we employ them here at the News-Herald to sell subscriptions. We just do not have the manpower, nor the expertise, to make the volume of calls necessary to make it worth the investment.

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Be that as it may, we have to be careful. We listen closely for feedback from people who get called, to make sure those representing us are being completely honest in their pitch. Unfortunately, as the Suffolk Police Department recently found, many of these firms are slimy entities that live under rocks.

The SPD employed a telemarketing firm recently to raise money for department’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.

According to a press release we received Friday, because of state budget cuts to the program, the SPD entered into an agreement with East Coast Marketing Group to telemarket support for the DARE program. East Coast hired an independent contractor to call businesses to place ads in a program to promote a comedy basketball game that was to be held as part of the National Night Out initiative. I assume proceeds from the sale were supposed to go to DARE. They called me. I think they stayed on hold about 30 seconds before they hung up.

&uot;Due to philosophical differences,&uot; a press release stated, the contractor made a decision to leave the area without notifying the SPD or East Coast. The bottom lines is that all checks obtained were turned over to the city. The city will get to keep its cut and all contributors will be reimbursed.

Its an unfortunate situation, but one nonetheless that could have been avoided.

The DARE program was highly touted when it was introduced in the ’80s. Government grants became available for police departments to hire officers to implement the program, under which officers go into schools to teach kids about the evils of drug use.

When funding started drying up, even before that, many communities across the country began abandoning the program. Many studies have shown it to be an ineffective weapon in the arsenal of the war on drugs.

It’s basically nothing more than a warm and fuzzy program, designed more to make us feel good than to actually be effective. It’s a shame that resources are diverted from real police work and time diverted from real education to accommodate it.

When I say that, I mean no offense to the officers who work hard to administer the program. They are doing their job. However, I would much prefer that those resources be poured into stepped up patrols and putting more officers on the street.

It’s a shame, really, that our officers have to resort to telemarketing to get the funding they need to protect us. It’s dangerous, low-paying, thankless work that we should be willing to ante up to support.

But since we’re not they have no choice. So be it. I would just prefer that if they have to call and beg for money that

it were to better equip, train and pay the officers to keep the barbarians from overrunning us. That’s a pitch I would listen to.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald.