SADDLE BROOK, N.J. -- An anti-drug teaching program will be in every school in every county in New Jersey if Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler and other members of L.E.A.D. have their way.
They're already getting help.
Earlier this week, Residential Home Funding Corporation donated $10,000 to Law Enforcement Against Drugs (L.E.A.D.) as "a pledge to (its) commitment in tackling the heroin epidemic gripping the local community and surrounding areas."
“It is imperative to raise awareness of the heroin epidemic in Parsippany and donate to the necessary cause of fighting against drugs,” said Thomas Marinaro, president of RHFC, a 15-year-old correspondent mortgage banker.
L.E.A.D. is trying to fill the gap left by the demise of the D.A.R.E. program in New Jersey following a curriculum dispute and legal battle.
"Our traditional role in the fight against drug abuse was to aggressively enforce and prosecute offenders," said Kugler, the L.E.A.D. chairman. "Although this role is still our responsibility, a greater emphasis is to educate our society, especially our youth, on the dangers and perils of drug abuse.
"Arrests and incarceration, although sometimes necessary, is just a revolving door for many and a drain on our police and prosecutorial resources," the chief told Daily Voice. "Our emphasis needs to to be on preventing them from getting involved in drug abuse activities before they even think about it."
L.E.A.D. is the only charitable law enforcement-related organization utilizing proven effective K-12 curricula in New Jersey, organizers say. It looks to demonstrate the health, social, legal and short-term consequences of using tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, inhalants or any other illegal drug.
The officers working the program in the schools hope to become role models while building trusting and supportive relationships with youngsters and their families.
Communication, confidence, assertiveness, refusal strategies and other resistance skills are discussed and practiced in role-play exercises.
They also discuss the development of positive friendships, peer pressure and "the art of avoiding risky situations," while examining the role of self-pressure in decision-making exercises."
The added benefit, of course, is having armed, trained policy officers protecting the children.
"Our physical presence provides protection for the children while they are in school and our team building events foster a healthy and lasting partnership that transcends the school environment," said L.E.A.D. Executive Director Nick DeMauro, who was D.A.R.E. of NJ's CEO for 17 years.
L.E.A.D.'s New Jersey affiliate will be holding a statewide training conference at Harrah's in Atlantic City from Feb. 29-March 2.
Training was being organized for Bergen County for April.