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During such tension-filled times, DARE can perform a valuable public-relations service. "DARE officers give a different face of law enforcement," says Levant, DARE's president. "A child's first experience with a uniformed police officer is in a friendly, helpful way. . . . You have to have programs like DARE in place so police aren't viewed as an occupying army."
From the beginning, improving police-community relations was part of the impetus for bringing DARE to New York City. "That seemed to me to be one of the major benefits of the program," says Robert Strang, the former DEA agent who chaired the mayor's advisory committee on antidrug initiatives. "Forget about the drug education. . . . We saw a relationship that could be built between the students and the police officers. There's no other vehicle for that that we're aware of. . . . For critics who say it's good PR for the police department, they're absolutely right and we should do more of it."
This is precisely what DARE plans to do. Hoping to double the program's size, the NYPD recently applied for a federal grant to add 100 more DARE officers and expand into the city's middle schools. But DARE doesn't intend to stop there. Sounding like a proud father, DARE's president reveals that over the next four years DARE will implement its full curriculum kindergarten through 12th grade in all of New York City's public schools.
Research assistance: Hillary Chute