Red Ribbon Week – Its History and Future

In recognition of October being National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition has collaborated with its strategic partners, The CV Weekly and Red Ribbon Week organizers to deliver a message promoting healthy lifestyles.
Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez
Glendale Police Department
Vice/Narcotics Unit

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country.  Red Ribbon Week generally takes place the last full week in October. It serves as a means for communities and individuals to encourage the dreams and hopes of youth to live a drug-free life that will aid them in being the best they can be and all they desire.

Red Ribbon Week commemorates the ultimate sacrifice of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. He had grown up in a dirt-floored house in Calexico, Calif. He grew up wanting to make a difference; he enlisted in the Marines, then became a police officer and eventually joined the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In February 1985, his job position had taken him to a station assignment in Mexico, where he was kidnapped by Mexican cartels. His remains were recovered a month later, in a shallow grave, having obvious signs of having been tortured. He had died, committed to the battle of keeping our children and nation safe and free of illegal drugs.

Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was 37 years old.

Within weeks of his death, Congressman Duncan Hunter and Camarena’s high school friend Henry Lozano launched Camarena Clubs in Imperial Valley, Calif., Camarena’s home. These coalitions began to wear red badges of satin, red ribbons, as a symbol Camarena’s memory. The Red Ribbon Week campaign emerged from the efforts of these clubs and coalitions.

Red Ribbon Week is a national effort to bring awareness to illicit drug use and the effort to reduce illicit drug use in our communities. The City of Glendale and the Glendale Police Department have had a long-standing commitment towards reducing the influx of illicit drugs in our communities. It starts with educating our children on the dangers of drug use and the implications. Drug education should start in the home by parents who have taken the time to educate themselves on the implications of illicit drug use and who talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Treatment of drug offenders is an important element towards reducing illicit drug use. Drug interdiction must continue to be a priority in the community. The Glendale Police Vice/Narcotics team takes an aggressive approach towards reducing the influx of illicit drugs in Glendale. Yet, it takes a community effort to reduce drug use.