Preventing Gangs October 2015
Here at Ukiah PD, we constantly worry about gangs; how violent they can be, and the impact they have on young people’s lives, their family’s lives, and our community.
In tough times like these, people want to know what they can do to help, and while we spend a great deal of our time in law enforcement working with young adults that are in gangs, it’s also important to remember that: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
For more than a decade now, the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) has teamed up with the Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD) to provide a program called, “Gang Resistance is Paramount” (GRIP) in each fifth grade classroom every school year.
As this new school year starts, we have another opportunity to educate parents and students about the GRIP program and how it can help combat gang activity, drug and alcohol use, negative effects of peer pressure, and social media bullying. UPD and UUSD are not the only community partners involved in GRIP. GRIP also works with Redwood Community Services and the Arbor on Main to provide counseling and intervention for students who need them.
Parents and community members who would like more information about efforts to reduce gang activity or bullying in our schools can contact UPD’s School Resource Officer Vince Morse (leave a message for him at 472-5768), or the GRIP program manager, Kristin Frith, at Redwood Community Services at 467-2010.
As I mentioned, the GRIP program serves all UUSD fifth graders, and has now reached more than 4,500 students since its inception. This means that nearly all of our middle school and high school students were introduced to the GRIP curriculum in fifth grade. Middle school administrators and our own police records indicate that even though there is still fighting on middle school campuses, large, multiple-subject fights occur less often than they did before GRIP education began. Data released from our local probation department and juvenile hall indicate a trend of fewer youth being arrested for gang-involved activities during this same time period.
Anyone who knows a pre-teen or young teenager recognizes that these years are an extremely impressionable time. Young people want to fit in with their peers, and as a result, they can make choices that follow them for the rest of their school years and even into adulthood.
Young people who excel at academics, are socially adept, engage in activities they enjoy, and have the support of family and friends can often handle the pressures of middle school.
However, those who struggle in school, are socially awkward, and have trouble developing healthy relationships sometimes look to drugs and other dangerous activities to escape, or to be included and accepted. Joining a gang can seem very appealing.
The objectives of the GRIP curriculum are to educate students about the dangers of gangs, discourage youth from joining gangs, educate parents about the signs of gang involvement, and provide parents with resources to help them eliminate gang activities in their homes and neighborhoods. Fifth graders are taught about peer pressure and bullying, drugs and alcohol, self-esteem, family, crime, gangs and territory, and gang vandalism. At the end of the program, all students receive a GRIP t-shirt and a certificate with their name on it.
GRIP curriculum is delivered locally thanks to a joint effort involving schools, parents, county agencies, nonprofit agencies, and law enforcement agencies. GRIP funding comes from our law enforcement drug and gang education – Asset Forfeiture Funds.
If you would like to learn more about how you can support the GRIP program, please contact Redwood Community Services, or the Ukiah Police Department. Educating and preventing kids from joining gangs, really is worth it.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.