Glendale’s innovative program to keep kids out of gangs

Although the overall crime rate in Los Angeles dropped last year, gang-related crime jumped 14 percent. “Street gangs are responsible for the majority of all the murders in Los Angeles and nearly 70 percent of all the shootings,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who hosted an international summit on gang issues Feb. 7 to 10 in Universal City. “We must work to address gang violence in a truly comprehensive way.”

Villaraigosa noted that the problem is not endemic to the United States: “A street gang that formed in the Pico Union neighborhood of Los Angeles now presents a major public safety challenge for all of Central America.”

Sadly, the havoc caused by gangs isn’t limited to big cities like Los Angeles or to Third World countries. Gangs can be found in tiny towns and upscale suburbs across America. In the San Fernando Valley, for example, gang-related crime grew by nearly 40 percent. L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley pointed out, “The San Fernando Valley has seen a real spike in gang crime.”

Captain James Sloan, who heads up The Salvation Army’s Glendale Corps, knows that kids in his area face gang pressure, too. His congregation is ethnically and socio-economically diverse, with Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics and Filipinos sitting side by side in the pews.
A particular problem in Glendale, says Sloan, is the lack of communication between the dominant Armenian and Hispanic populations. “To help build positive relationships,” says Sloan, “we will take Latino kids from our campus over to visit Armenian seniors who live at the Silvercrest Center.”

Wes Burrell, Glendale’s youth program director, says, “We make a point to foster greater understanding and communication between both populations in all of our programming and outreach.”

The Glendale Corps houses a number of innovative youth programs to keep kids involved, growing and off the street. For example, the Zone Film Institute (ZFI) sponsors film making classes that are supported by a group of industry professionals who mentor each of the participating students.

The corps also provides studio space to emerging Christian artists. “Resident Artists” participate in after school programs and exhibit their work throughout the campus.

STAR is a student mentoring program for 4th-8th grade students, operated collaboratively between the Glendale Corps and the Glendale Police Department. The program meets once a week with a long-term mentoring commitment to each student during the years of enrollment.

Safe Place is a youth safety education and crisis intervention program for Glendale youth. Trained staff members at Safe Place locations respond to the challenging needs of youth as they wrestle with issues too great to handle on their own.

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