Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Police reach benchmark in gang-prevention classes

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Four years ago, the Frederick Police Department started using a nationally recognized gang prevention program at city middle schools.

As of December, that instruction had reached 1,500 Frederick youths, a number Police Chief Kim C. Dine finds significant.

‘‘The fact that we’ve reached 1,500 kids through this course signifies to me the recognition that you have to address gangs in many different ways,” he said. ‘‘You can’t just arrest this away.”

In 2003, the department received an initial federal grant to train officers in the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program (G.R.E.A.T.), bringing it first to West Frederick Middle School in 2004. Taught by city police, the course gives young people instruction in concepts such as how to avoid the lure of gangs, build self-esteem and create an understanding and respect for doing the right thing.

As of last year, with additional federal funds, the department was able to expand the program to Gov. Thomas Johnson and Monocacy middle schools. The program’s training costs, including books and teaching aids, are fully funded or supplied by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Dine said that the instruction is a key component of the four-pronged approach his department takes in battling gangs in Frederick: enforcement, education, prevention and investigation. He said that the department also works to educate adults through presentations at Neighborhood Advisory Council meetings and professional meetings, such as with the county’s Realtors.

‘‘It is critical for people, children and adults alike, to understand the dynamics of gangs, including why they form, how they operate and the signs of their existence,” he said. ‘‘In a sense, that is what community policing is all about. If people don’t understand [gangs], the more difficult it is to protect them from gangs and there needs to be a willingness and strong desire to talk about the issue.”

‘Sister City’ trip to Brazil warm, wonderful

Members of the Frederick Sister Cities Association spent Jan. 10 to 18 soaking up the sun and culture in the city’s Brazil Sister City of Aquiraz. Among those sent, at the association’s expense, were Alderman Alan E. Imhoff (R) and the group’s president, Shuan Butcher, who is also executive director of the Frederick Arts Council. ‘‘As our first official trip to our new ‘sister city,’ it went very well,” Butcher said. ‘‘The purpose is to engage in diplomacy ... and I was amazed at what they put together for us.”

Among the highlights of the trip was a music concert by nearly 100 young people in the city’s community center and a visit to a state-run job assistance program that helps local artists sell their wares, including lace and pottery. To promote the artists, the state buys the products and sells them to help raise awareness of their talents and help the local economy.

Imhoff said he would like to investigate a way to sell these items in Frederick to do the same in Maryland as is done in Brazil.

Last September, the association held ‘‘Brazil Day” at Carroll Creek Park, to help raise funds for an ambulance to send to the sister city, which now rents one. The goal is to ship the vehicle overseas in March, Imhoff said.

Imhoff said he hopes to help a shortage of medical care in Aquiraz by loading the ambulance with gauze and other items.

‘‘With the Sister City relationship, we try to foster awareness of culture and also exchange ideas and ways to help one another,” Imhoff said.

Plans are currently in the works for this year’s Brazil Day, to be held on Sept. 7 in Baker Park, with a representative from Aquiraz to attend, Butcher said.

For more information, visit www.brazildayinfrederick.com.