Program targets needs of
Nashua's at-risk youth
Nashua Telegraph Staff
- Amid the laughter that filled the room, Nashua resident Aldonys Reynoso,
13, struggled to cut the brightly colored ribbon with an orange pair of
Finally, somebody handed the youth a sharp pair, and with a snip, the police
officers and state officials that filled the recreation room of the Nashua
Police Athletic League center on Ash Street erupted in a cheer.
The crowd, which included Nashua Police Chief Timothy Hefferan, Attorney
General Kelly Ayotte, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Laplante and
Mayor Bernie Streeter, among other notable officials, had turned out Friday
to celebrate the opening of the PAL Youth Safe Haven at the center.
Funded by a grant from the Milton S.
the program is a cooperative effort involving local police, officials from
the Nashua School District, the Nashua Housing Authority and the New
Hampshire National Guard to help target the needs of at-risk youth.
Through the program, PAL officials and a soon-to-be-hired civilian
counterpart will work with Nashua School District 21st Century officials to
track the educational progress of 100 students whose parents have signed
them up for the program.
"It's been our honest and legitimate goal to be involved in community
policing, and to effectively serve we have to forge new partnerships to be
able to do that," Hefferan told the crowd.
"With the Eisenhower
Foundation, the school system,
the housing authority and PAL, we pledge that we will continue to build a
kind of relationship that we have so far on friendship, on trust, and on
respect with our future that is our youth," he said.
According to PAL program director Kevin Landry, the program - which will
operate Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. at the center - will allow PAL
officials to have more "Instead of just being open as a community center, we
will also have specific programs, for instance homework every day," Landry
Reynoso was just one of the 30 or so "regular" kids who frequent the center
on a daily basis, he said.
The program will also allow Nashua police to assign two police officers to
areas specified by the Nashua Housing Authority.
"That officer is going to be the liaison between what goes on with these
kids when he or she responds to calls for service in the housing authority,
and then communicates that information back to this program here," said
Hefferan after the ribbon cutting.
The program was modeled on the Japanese policing structure called Koban,
said Melissa Silvey, Dover Housing Authority director of family services who
helped found the state's first Youth Safe Haven in Dover in 1999.
"The concept is putting a city officer on every city block," said Silvey
explaining the eastern practice.
"That city officer knows every family on that street, knows every kid's
name; that is why their crime is so low," she said.
"The whole point of this safe haven is building trust with police. You can
have police presence everywhere and still not have trust," Silvey said.
"To do that takes a lot of work and you have to get out of your vehicle and
you have to start mixing with the neighbors," she said.
Silvey said that after the program was started in Dover, calls for police
services in targeted areas dropped almost two-thirds in the first year, then
spiked in the next year.
"And so we had to look at that, and we surveyed residents as to why, and it
was because they felt more comfortable reporting, and that their report to a
police officer wouldn't just be pooh-poohed," Silvey said.
Through the Dover Youth Safe Haven program, Silvey said, parents fill out a
form at area schools allowing program officials to see their child's report
card and to track their child academically and get progress reports from the
The kids pick the programs that they want to attend; however, the primary
program that they must attend is homework studies, which runs everyday right
after school for one hour, she said.
Program officials then check homework and monitor the child's grades in
"The key factor is that you are bringing in a circle of partners who are all
communicating with each other," Silvey said.
Grant money expected for the program will be in the $100,000 to $200,000
range, depending on the program they create, according to Doug Hayes,
commander of the police department's services bureau, which overseas the PAL
"This is a significant benefit to the PAL program as it has existed,"
"PAL is done solely on fund-raising, and it is a fairly rigorous endeavor .
. . That money coming in will support not only some of the new programs we
will have to more narrowly focus on kids, but I envision it helping in
defraying some of the fund-raising efforts that we do every year," he said.
Copyright, 2005, The
Telegraph, Nashua, N.H. All Rights Reserved.