Eisenhower president Alan Curtis makes a point with Vecinos Unidos president Chris
Griffin at the Parkridge Garden apartment -- the first such
Youth Safe Haven-Police Ministation in
Virginia, where local
officers will serve as mentors to the young people.
The Youth Safe Haven-Police Ministation complements the
foundation’s highly respected Quantum Opportunities Program (QOP) already in
place in Herndon – a computer-driven after-school learning curriculum. The Safe
Haven also will offer tutoring with local police and civilian staff.
Rep. Wolf, an active anti-gang campaigner, joined Eisenhower president Alan
Curtis at the event, which brought out Herndon Mayor Michael O’Reilly,
police chief Toussaint Summers, and Vice-Mayor Darryl Smith, who
will help run the program with Vecinos Unidos (Neighbors United).
Authorities have been alarmed by the growth of Latino street gangs in northern
Virginia. The largest and most notorious, Mara Savatrucha, or MS-13, has gained
a foothold among youth in Latin American communities here. MS-13 has been
implicated in several fatal shooting and machete attacks in northern Virginia,
and Rep. Wolf has been key in securing federal funding to combat the gang
Local police, such as Chief Summers and Herndon vice-mayor Smith (a retired
captain), will serve as mentors.
“The gang problem is growing in Virginia, where they are recruiting kids as
young as seven. But we had one teenager drop out of the MS-13 gang to join my
group,” Smith said, referring to his own unofficial youth safe haven, which he started
nine years ago. “It is vitally important to have good, quality kids and adults
in a student’s life – and having a safe place to learn in the afternoon, after
school is out, is a critical time of day.”
Capt. Smith began his work as part of the mayor’s Hispanic task force, and
helped create Vecinos Unidos.
“With crime increasing in all areas around the nation’s capital, and across the
country, all segments of society are looking for effective, inexpensive ways to
reduce crime,” Dr. Curtis said. The new Herndon Youth Safe Haven is a
replication of the police-youth-community model long championed by Eisenhower at
sites across the country and in Washington.
Under the Youth Safe Haven police “ministation” model, newly assigned officers
and local students share the same working space within a housing community. As
officers become mentors to the young people, partnerships develop. Grades
improve. Homework gets done. The kids stay off the streets, and out of trouble.
Eisenhower, in partnership with the DC-based Telesis Corp. developed a youth
safe haven at the Carver Terrace housing complex in Washington – recently
rededicated as the Patsy Hartsfield Center, after the longtime local
activist. Dr. Curtis said the police ministration model has “been scientifically
proven to reduce crime in communities from Boston to San Juan.”
For more information, please contact the Eisenhower Foundation at 202/234-8104.