Behind the Badge: Indiana town marshal uses Pop Tarts to build community relationships

ADVANCE, Ind. – The town marshal of Advance, Indiana is using a little breakfast to help build community relationships.

Every morning, Marshal Brad Thomas spends time at the corner of Main Street and Wall Street and hands out Pop Tarts or other foods to kids waiting for their school bus. It’s a tradition he started when he took his position in August.

“It’s pretty amazing how something as simple as Pop Tarts has brought the whole community together,” Thomas said.

Thomas is a former IMPD narcotics officer. He said he began using his “Pop Tart policing” method as a way to help build strong relationships with the town youth.

“And it gives us an excuse to build a relationship or to just get out of the car. There’s something about food that brings people together,” he said.

Thomas’s methods have caught on so much that members of the community are now buying and giving him Pop Tarts to hand out. He says people often deliver them to his home or directly to the bus stop while he hands them out.

The teens who receive Pop Tarts from Thomas have become fans of the Marshal.

“I like that he keeps coming back. It makes me really happy to know that somebody actually cares enough to make sure that people don’t go to school hungry,” Eve Smith said.

Thomas says any food he brings could realistically be the only thing some of the kids eat all morning, which provides extra incentive for his work. But he says the biggest perk comes from establishing a lasting relationship with the teens and their families that can extend years beyond the bus stop.

“If you can help one kid a year, or one kid a month, then down the road you’ve done something. It’s over time. It’s kind of like interest it builds over time,” Thomas said.

As a part of his community outreach, Thomas says he hopes to get his teaching license and offer tutoring courses to the kids. As for the Pop Tarts, he says he plans on handing them out for at least the next ten years.