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Pro-drug Groups Behind Attack on Prevention Programs; Dare Seen as Target as Mayors' Conference Called to Combat Legalization Threat

PR Newswire

November 14, 1994

Two leading drug abuse prevention executives said today that pro-drug groups were behind recent criticism of various national drug prevention programs, including the well-known Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program or DARE.

Glen Levant, executive director of DARE America and retired deputy chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department, said that one of the most-often quoted critics of the DARE program is a former executive of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, although he is not identified as such in the media.

"However, you'd never know this from reading the stories," he said. "The media quotes these individuals as if they were boy scouts -- just concerned citizens voicing their opinions. The victims of these perpetrations is not DARE or the other drug prevention groups, but our children. We see the tragedy every day."

Chief Levant made his remarks to leading government, law enforcement and drug prevention officials attending the first Substance Abuse Prevention and Law Enforcement Community Partnership conference here in Charlotte.

Sue Rusche, director of Atlanta-based National Families in Action, another leading drug prevention program, said she agreed with Chief Levant's remarks.

"The attack by the legalization groups on prevention programs is an attack on the children of America," she said.

Rusche announced that a U.S. Mayors' Conference has been called for in Atlanta in May 1995 to develop a strategy to combat the efforts of the various legalization groups.

Fred Garcia, Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the government's top anti-drug agency, said, "This administration views legalization as unacceptable. Nothing will increase the devastation more."

NORML was not the only pro-drug group said to be attacking the prevention programs. Another vocal prevention program critic, "Parents Against DARE," an apparent one-man organization, also supports the so- called beneficial effects of drugs, according to Chief Levant.

Chief Levant emphasized that prevention programs like DARE are an invaluable resource in the nation's fight against drugs. He called on members of the law enforcement and drug abuse prevention communities around the nation to voice their concern over the drug legalization minority that, in furtherance of its own vested interests, is threatening to disrupt some of the nation's most successful anti-drug efforts.
This year, police officers teaching the 17-week DARE program will reach over 60 percent of the nation's elementary, junior high and high schools, including an estimated 5.5 million of the nation's 5th graders with the program's well-known appeal: Dare to Resist Drugs and Violence! The program was created in 1983 as a cooperative partnership between local law enforcement and local school districts in Los Angeles. In the years since, it has spread at a grass-roots level to all 50 states and 18 foreign countries. To date, DARE has reached over 100 million youngsters with its anti-drug/anti-violence message, becoming the nation's No. 1 school-based preventative education program.

"The truth is that the DARE program is a threat to those who would have us believe that the laws against drug use are a modern day Prohibition that the country would be better off without," said Chief Levant. "But we know better. Everyday we see on the streets the misery and horror that drug abuse causes: the pain of the mother who has just lost her 11-year-old child, the crack babies, the murder, crime and violence." Chief Levant cited Justice Department statistics that some 23 million Americans currently use illegal drugs at an estimated cost to the U.S. economy of $400 billion annually in health care expense, the cost of incarceration and the impact of lost productivity. "The human cost is even higher," he said, "with some 400,000 crack babies born every year."

Chief Levant added that, despite criticism by the pro-legalization groups, DARE has proven to be an extremely successful program. "There's a reason why drug arrests of those under 18 years of age are half what they were seven years ago in Los Angeles and a reason why drug selling busts in L.A. schools have been cut to 10 a week today compared with 40 per week in the 1980s," he said. "And that reason is not the legalization of drugs."

He also cited recent California Department of Education statistics that 52 percent of high school seniors polled said that they were not using illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco with the majority attributing this in part to their DARE training.

"We need DARE," he said. "It is a critical tool in our fight against illegal drug use. When you are visible, popular and successful you tend to attract criticism. We know that the DARE program works," he said. "The police tell us so; the kids tell us so; the parents and teachers tell us so; and statistically relevant research tells us so. Even the most critical studies have admitted that DARE does make our children more knowledgeable about drugs -- which is an important first step."

Chief Levant said that a 1993 Gallup survey of DARE "graduates" in all 50 states found more than 90 percent said the program had provided them with skills to avoid drugs and increase their self confidence and self esteem.

"Our detractors like to characterize DARE as an 'Orwellian reality' or 'Big Brother' at work," said Chief Levant. "These bush-league tactics are transparent for what they are: attempts to support various individual personal agendas at the expense of our children." CONTACT: Michael Sitrick or Michael Kolbenschlag of Sitrick Krantz & Co., 310-788-2850


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