City awarded $400,000 grant to curb gangs

November 05, 1994|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

Gang prevention is coming to Baltimore courtesy of the 1994 crime bill.

The Gang Resistance Education and Training program, which sends police officers into elementary and middle school classes to help students resist joining gangs, is in nine cities and will enter 10 more, including Baltimore.

"We're really thrilled that Baltimore, in a really competitive environment, will be one of the 10 [new] cities nationwide," said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who appeared with Rep. Kweisi Mfume at a briefing yesterday at police headquarters. "It's a great day for Baltimore and a great day for the crime bill."

As part of the effort, the Baltimore Police Department receive$400,000 for nine new police officers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also received $400,000 to train the new officers, who then will teach third-, fourth- and eighth-graders to resist peer pressure, set goals, and stay out of gangs, city Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said.

"We must educate our youth on the disadvantages and oftentimes deadly consequences that are associated with gangs," said Mr. Frazier, who will put one of these specially trained officers in each of the nine police districts.

Gangs in Baltimore do exist, Mr. Frazier said, but more on the scale of loose-knit neighborhood youth groups than the organized drug cartels of Los Angeles and Chicago. In the past, city police officials have been loath to admit the existence of gangs in Baltimore, but not Mr. Frazier. "I believe in being open about the issue," Mr. Frazier said. "If I'm not, parents will make decisions about how to raise their children with the mistaken belief that gangs are not an issue in the city."

Mr. Frazier said gangs are linked to 70 percent of the drug activity in the city. But he and other government officials stressed that the program is not an intervention program trying to break up gangs. It strives to prevent new gangs from forming and the existing ones from gaining a new generation of members.

"I think gang organizations here are fairly new, and we have a chance to intervene before they become entrenched," Mr. Frazier said.

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