BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — The DARE program has been teaching kids to stay away from drugs and gangs for thirty years now. In Louisiana, Baker police chief Mike Knaps was one of the first DARE officers in the state when the program began back in 1991.
"The hardest decision I ever made as getting out of that classroom. My first group of dare graduates would be 34 years old," explained Knaps.
Through the years the program has shifted and changed to meet the changing needs of kids.
"It looks a lot more at bullying. It looks a lot more at social networking. It looks at a lot of synthetic type of situations," explained Knaps.
Park Ridge Elementary principal Tammy Armand-Golden supports the program and said it has taught her students to trust their officers.
"They love officer Brooks. I mean they look forward to it, if it has to be cancelled they're disappointed, and our students have really grown because I know when I first got here if the officer would come they would get a little scared but now they're always smiling and greeting them and they know he's their friend]," shared Armand-Golden.
"I can still go today, in any area of Baker and talk to any one of my current students, former students and get most of any information I need to get," said Knaps.
But in recent years many schools have gotten rid of the DARE program, believing it doesn't reach kids well enough. Chief Knaps said research proves otherwise.
"It’s been shown to be the most effective productive awareness program that we've had in the united states through out the years and that's why it's lasted so long. It’s one of the last things I’ll cut loose. It's a tremendous asset to this community," Knaps explained.
The DARE program in Louisiana is funded in part through a $0.01 tobacco tax.