To help those who might be suffering from abuse or molestation, he also tells young children to watch out for an "oh-oh" feeling--even if the person who makes them feel that way is someone they "look up to or even love." He said he avoids getting too specific, because some children may use the specifics to fabricate a story. Those who need help need only the vaguest encouragement to speak up, he said.
Reed knows that resisting drugs and alcohol can be more difficult than just saying no. He advises fifth- and sixth-graders: If someone offers them beer or drugs, they can change the subject; they can ignore the offer or walk the other way when they see gang members who they know will pressure them.
In class each pupil has a turn at role playing the responses.
For older children, Reed displays drugs and drug paraphernalia so they can see what they look and smell like.
When the auditorium cleared after one drug program, a girl came up to him and started to cry, Reed said. She was distraught. She didn't want to believe it, she said, but her father was using drugs.
Because the girl's parents were divorced, Reed asked the child to let her mother know how upset she was. Eventually, the girl's teacher persuaded the mother to pass on anti-drug literature to the father, he said.
Shy children may send anonymous notes to the DARE question box at school. One read: "What happens to a fifth-grader who takes drugs?"
Reed believes the trust he builds in children comes from being himself. "If you are caring and genuine, kids respond to that." He also credits a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ and the encouragement and support of his own family: his wife Margie--"my greatest supporter and best friend"--and two sons, Kery, 17, and Kevin, 19. They live in Orange.
A father-substitute to many, Reed never knew his own father, who divorced his mother when he was 3, he said. His mother "tried to make ends meet as best she could" by working as a graphic designer in Dayton, Ohio. If not for her tears at the thought of his dropping out of school, he might have quit. Instead, he graduated and spent four years in the Marine Corps.
In September, Reed said, the Santa Ana Police Department and the Santa Ana Unified School District will decide whether to expand DARE districtwide and to the city's five private schools.
It may be seven years before follow-up statistics on the children now in the program are available and its effectiveness known, Reed said.
For now, his attache case is full of grateful letters from children--many asking him to come back.
Reed said another officer visiting a private home on a call was surprised when a child there gave him a letter for Officer Reed.
"It said: 'We really miss you. Please come back and visit us.' "
Needless to say, Reed went.