Gordon March is used to fighting crime from a different perspective.
The former county police narcotics detective has spent the last several years of his career working undercover, posing as a buyer or seller of cocaine, PCP and other illegal substances.
But after eight years undercover, his job description changed suddenly when Chief Robert Russell called on him a month ago to start a youth program for poor children in Freetown Village near Pasadena.
"I used to go into Freetown to buy drugs -- undercover -- but now I'll be there working with the kids," said March, a 23-year department veteran. "The kids will be in touch with the police and see that we are human, too."
A picnic in Freetown Village at 6:30 p.m. Thursday will begin the Anne Arundel County Police Youth Activities Program.
The goal is to provide positive role models for children and to motivate them to stay away from drugs.
"Nearly all confirmed adult criminals start their careers as juvenile offenders," March said, noting that children need to be provided with opportunities and alternatives to drugs.
"I want to be able to show these kids that we do care about their future," he said.
Freetown Village residents may register their children for the program, which will run until Aug. 20, at the picnic, March said. Hours for the program will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Some of the activities scheduled for the children include Orioles games, horseback riding, swimming, roller skating and a boat cruise to St. Michael's.
March said he will staff the program with off-duty officers, parents and anyone who wishes to work with the children.
"Many officers have already donated their off-duty time," he said.
In addition to the summer program, March plans to run an after-school program in the fall at the Freetown Recreation Center from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
"There will be snacks and tutoring for the kids," he said. "We will be monitoring their progress in school, and if they are having a problem in a particular area, we will get a specialist to help them."
The program is supported by private donations. State Sen. Michael Wagner has agreed to help form a board of directors that would be responsible for raising money to keep the program afloat. So far, $1,500 has been collected.
If the program is successful in Freetown, March said, the department will start another in Meade Village.