Drug-Free Marshals enlisted by LAPD; Youth on front lines against neighborhood violence
ith violence in one Los Angeles neighborhood peaking at eight gang-related homicides in a single month, police of the Northeast district commandeered a street now infamous for gun violence to launch a counter effort.
The street in Atwater Village would become the scene of a “Stop the Violence” block party.
Among those enlisted in a campaign to get residents to take back their neighborhood were City Council member Eric Garcetti, local vendors, a “bounce” attraction to keep the younger children entertained, and the Drug-Free Marshals of the Church of Scientology.
Drug-Free Marshals are youth who take a front-line position on the war against drugs. They do not back off when it comes to telling their peers the facts about drugs, directing them toward drug education and having them swear to steer clear of drugs and promise to live a drug-free life.
After initial education on drugs, Drug-Free Marshals take a seven-point pledge of what they need to do personally to stay drug free as well as contribute to making family, friends and neighborhood drug free. The campaign also involves essay and poster contests and other activities to encourage and spread a message against drug use and abuse.
The Drug-Free Marshals set up shop at the block party, and immediately youngsters lined up to be able to craft their own posters against drugs, crime and violence. “Some people make money, and some people lose their lives,” wrote one young boy; “Drugs make your brain shrink,” wrote a peer, among the tens of posters drawn up throughout the day.
Each child was then administered the Drug-Free Marshal pledge. “To show my friends that a drug-free life is more fun”, “to tell people the truth about the harmful effects of drugs”; and “to set a good example” are among the promises they made before accepting their shiny badge signifying official deputization as a Drug-Free Marshal.
“Violence is stupid, and drugs make you stupid,” said 10-year-old Los Angeles Marshal, Nick James. “We can end the violence, when we get rid of the drugs.”
Tens of thousands of youth have taken the Drug-Free Marshals pledge since the program began in 1993. With posters blanketing Los Angeles and news announcements urging youth to participate in a city-wide essay contest, the first 200 Drug-Free Marshals, aged 6 to 13, responded that year. The Director of the FBI’s Drug Demand Reduction Program deputized them. They received a heartfelt acknowledgment for their part in the war against drugs from then First Lady, Nancy Reagan, and a “thumbs up” from actor John Travolta at the special swearing-in ceremony which took place in Hollywood.
The program has since spread at a grass roots level throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, European countries, Australia and South Africa, reaching more than a quarter of a million children. While appearing under different names in some countries, it follows the same simple steps to empower children with responsibility for creating a drug-free environment.
Children in the program get enthusiastic over spreading the word about drugs and expanding their own ranks — adults included. Thousands of religious leaders, judges, mayors, law enforcement and government officials, celebrities and concerned adults around the world have been sworn in by Drug-Free Marshals youth, and support the program avidly.
Retired U.S. federal marshal officer Lt. William Anderson in Los Angeles is one such adult. Anderson took his Drug-Free Marshals pledge and received his six-pointed “gold badge” from young Drug-Free Marshals at the Northeast Community Station’s Annual Safety Fair last year, during which 130 youth joined the campaign. Anderson educated the new Marshals on the heritage of their namesake, including his own grandfather’s adventures as a marshal going head to head with notorious outlaw Jesse James.
Drug-Free Marshals have also been seen administering pledges at a National Federation of Motorcycle Officers Rodeo, and signing up more than 700 youth at the KTLA Kids Day at Griffith Park in 2000 and Exposition Park in 2001.
For more information on the Drug-Free Marshals or to find out more about effective drug education presentations for youth, contact the Community Affairs Office of the Church of Scientology, (323) 953-3225.
Also visit the Drug-Free Marshals website at: