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 being a teenager.
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. For these young people, joining a gang can seem very appealing.
Here at the Ukiah Police Department (UPD), we constantly worry about gangs—how violent they can be and the impact they have on young people’s lives, their families’ lives, and our community. For more than a decade now, UPD has teamed up with the Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD) and local community agencies to provide a program called Gang Resistance is Paramount (GRIP).
As this new school year starts, I’d like to take this opportunity to educate parents and students about the GRIP program and how it can help combat gang activity, drug and alcohol use, the negative effects of peer pressure, and social media bullying.
GRIP curriculum is delivered locally thanks to a collaborative effort involving schools, parents, county agencies, nonprofit agencies, and our county’s law enforcement agencies. The program is funded by our law enforcement drug and gang education budget, which uses asset forfeiture funds.
The GRIP program is presented annually to all UUSD fifth graders and has now reached more than 5,000 students since its inception. This means that nearly all of our middle school and high school students were introduced to the GRIP curriculum while in fifth grade.
We’re pleased to report that, although fights still break out on middle school campuses, we see far fewer of the large, multiple-subject fights we saw 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.
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.
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 Tony Delapo through the Ukiah Dispatch Center at 463-6262 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or they can contact the GRIP program administrators at Redwood Community Services (RCS) at 462-7267.
RCS and its Arbor Youth Resource Center have been essential partners with UPD and UUSD in our effort to reduce gangs and help provide GRIP training here in Mendocino County. RCS works to improve the lives of children, youth, and families in our community and the Arbor was established to provide a welcoming, multi-cultural environment for youth ages 15-24. The Arbor is a place where teens and young adults can receive vocational training, mental health support, peer support, financial literacy, basic life skills education, and more. The Arbor is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM.
We are extremely proud of our community’s GRIP program and its impact in reducing gangs, and we thank you for allowing us to present it to local fifth graders.
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.
By: Chris Dewey - Chief of Police