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Community Outreach - Working with At-Risk Youth
Community Outreach - Working with At-Risk Youth
Juvenile Smuggling Prevention
Along the Southwest Border, cartels cavalierly recruit youth to smuggle hard narcotics, using a potent combination of cash inducements, false promises and lies that obscure future consequences. These juvenile recruiting tactics have increased in recent years, driving drug seizures from students up more than 150% in one year. Significantly, the drugs involved carry real dangers: in addition to cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, several high school students were caught attempting to smuggle deadly fentanyl across the border. Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and DEA, the nominees created a multi-faceted program to educate youth about smuggling dangers and provide real resources and streamlined reporting avenues. The community partnership team, which included federal and local law enforcement, community activists, and social service providers, worked closely with school district officials in border communities. The team addressed the rise in juvenile smuggling crime and the public safety threat with innovative and effective prevention strategies. The resulting program included billboards, a powerful school assembly presented to thousands of at-risk students, community meetings with parents, and diverse stakeholders, messaging in mainstream and social media, and a peer-to-peer campaign that engaged area youth. The assemblies, in particular, had a compelling impact: the program emphasized fentanyl dangers, included a young smuggler’s dramatic post-arrest call to his mom, fully outlined collateral consequences, and conveyed a mom’s emotional message about her son’s overdose. More than 4,000 youth attended the program and the vast majority of surveyed students agreed it improved their knowledge of risks, convinced them smuggling is not worth it, and enabled them to make smart choices to protect their future. Moreover, a whopping 70% feel they now know where to get help if recruited. Fortunately, in addition to safeguarding youth, the program also furthered several ongoing investigations, as many students lined up after assemblies to provide solid tips and leads regarding cartel recruiting activities. Due to COVID-19 we have created a fully virtual program with videos, activities, and an optional live Q&A for students. To access the virtual program please email us at USACAS-Excellenceawa@usa.doj.gov.
Project LEAD, which is short for “Legal Enrichment and Decision-Making.” The program brings law enforcement representatives to public schools to provide a no cost eight-week instructional program that teaches fifth grade students to make wise choices.
The program serves as an informal mentoring program in which students are guided by volunteer instructors with government, law enforcement, criminal justice, and/or military backgrounds. These volunteer instructors encourage the students to explore their dreams and aim high when setting their goals.
Project LEAD has reached more than 2,800 students at 10 local elementary schools and has had more than 286 volunteers from different law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Coast Guard; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the City Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Marshal’s Service; the Department of Homeland Security; Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Secret Service; The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigation; San Diego Police Department; U.S. Probation Office; U.S. Pretrial Services; State Department; Department of Corrections; Homeland Security Investigations; and Internal Revenue Service. Now that students have returned to campus so have LEAD instructors.
Success Agents, a mentoring program for high risk elementary students, is committed to helping vulnerable elementary school kids thrive, both in and outside of school. The program provides mentors, incentives, fun activities and support services that promote resilience, self-esteem, conflict resolutions skills and the discipline needed to make smart choices.
One important aspect of Success Agents is a weekly session designed to foster mentoring relationships and expand the horizons of these youth. The workshops feature restorative circles, visiting speakers, athletic activities and creative projects. Success Agents also works with school officials, parents and grandparents to identify needs and provide wraparound support to the entire family.
This program would not be possible without the support of the community partners who come together to help our youth. Anyone familiar with Success Agents can attest the mentors receive as much as they provide. It is deeply rewarding to offer guidance, support, and friendship to these students, who often face multiple challenges as they strive to reach their true potential.
Law Enforcement Recognition
Each year, the U.S. Attorneys hosts an “Excellence in the Pursuit of Justice” Awards Ceremony to recognize the federal, state and local law enforcement officers who made extraordinary contributions to the mission of our office — to do justice. Each day, our law enforcement partners leave their families, not knowing what dangers lurk ahead, because they are committed to making our community safer. At the Excellence in the Pursuit of Justice Awards Ceremony, we celebrate their achievements and recognize the sacrifices that they and their families make.
The ceremony in 2020 was postponed due to Covid. In 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office hosted a virtual event to celebrate all 149 of the award recipients for FY 2020 and FY 2021.