This year 36 million school children around the world--26 million in the U.S.--will benefit from D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), the highly acclaimed program that gives kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence. D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and has proven so successful that it is now being implemented in 75 percent of our nation's school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world. D.A.R.E. is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives.
The Oak Lawn Police Department instituted the D.A.R.E. Program in 1989 and is taught to fifth graders in twelve elementary schools. Over 12,000 students have graduated from our D.A.R.E. program. D.A.R.E. is not just a drug education program; it is crime and violence prevention program in our schools. D.A.R.E. goes beyond traditional drug abuse and violence prevention programs. It gives children the skills needed to recognize and resist the subtle and overt pressures that cause them to experiment with drugs or become involved in gangs or violent activities. D.A.R.E. is designed to meet the needs of our children who today are subjected to more pressures than we were at their age. With the use of the D.A.R.E. Decision-Making Model, our children learn to: Define the problem they are facing; Assess what their choices are; Respond appropriately based on the facts and information they have gathered; and evaluate their response.
D.A.R.E. is universally viewed as an internationally recognized model of community policing. The United States Department of Justice has identified how D.A.R.E. benefits local communities:
• D.A.R.E. "humanizes" the police: that is, young people can begin to relate to officers as people.
• D.A.R.E. permits students to see officers in a helping role, not just an enforcement role.
• D.A.R.E. opens lines of communication between law enforcement and youth.
• D.A.R.E. officers can serve as conduits to provide information beyond drug-related topics.
• D.A.R.E. opens dialogue between the school, police, and parents to deal with other issues.
Programs such as D.A.R.E. & EDGE promote the education necessary to keep our kids safe and our Village prosperous.
EDucation for Gang Evasion
The Oak Lawn Police Department instituted the EDGE Program in 1995, beginning it at Simmons Middle School. It is now being taught annually to junior high students at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, Simmons Middle School, St. Gerald School, St. Germaine School, St. Linus School, St. Louis de Montfort School and St. Paul Lutheran School. Since its inception, over 8,000 students have graduated from EDGE and the program’s success can be attributed to them and their parents because these students have shunned the gang life style and have been doing their part to help keep Oak Lawn gang-free. EDGE has proven to be a very effective and popular program.
EDGE is designed to meet the specific needs of our children who today are subjected to the pressures of not only getting involved with gang activity, but also using drugs and engaging in acts of violence. EDGE complements our D.A.R.E. program that is taught to fifth grade students. These programs have been a significant part of the combined efforts of law enforcement and education in our community to help our children deal with problems.
During EDGE instruction:
• Students are given factual information about the dangers of gang affiliation.
• Students receive tips on personal safety and learn how they can avoid being targets of gang related violence.
• Students are exposed to problem solving and decision making skills.
• Students learn that they will be held accountable for their actions.
• Students explore the concepts relating to violence and conflict resolution.
• Students learn meditation techniques as an alternative to physical confrontation.
• Students learn that they too have a voice in their community, and that by developing a sense of ownership, they can help keep their neighborhoods safe and their futures bright.
The Chicago Crime Commission has targeted gangs as Public Enemy #1, citing the ever increasing proliferation of gang activity in not only Chicago, but in suburban Cook County and the collar counties as well. No community is immune to the dangers and violence associated with gangs. Their main purpose is engaging in criminal acts in an effort to control the very neighborhoods in which they reside and operate. That could mean our neighborhood.
The more knowledge we have about gangs and their destructive behavior, the better our chances in keeping our neighborhoods gang-free. Programs such as EDGE promote the education necessary to keep our kids safe and our Village prosperous.
A gang will only be as strong as a community allows it to be.