Safe Haven is First of Its Kind

to Operate in State of Virginia

Continued from "What's News"

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 problem.

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.