The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on September 29, 1996 · Page 49
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 49

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, September 29, 1996
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Page 49
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Continued from previous page "These kids already know how to be gang members just from watching movies and TV," says Jack McQueen, a Bloomington police officer who analyzes gang trends. Bloomington pairs aggressive gang suppression with strong support from neighborhood and social service groups. In the South Hill neighborhood, resident Dee Wheat formed an ad hoc force of mothers who work at home. "Moms on Patrol" members walk or drive around the neighborhood, reporting suspicious activity to the police. B ESIDES MAKING IT tougher for gangs to operate, Bloomington is working to prevent future gang activity. McLean County, which contains Bloomington, is one of five communities to get a $200,000-a- year federal grant (growing to as much as $500,000 a year) from the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to fund a community- wide approach to gang prevention. Some of that money funds a gang intervention program run by Project Oz; it offers tutoring, counseling, job placement, tattoo removal and a basketball league. "Individually, they're good kids," says Pat Morland, community youth liaison officer at Project Oz. "But when they get in a group, you can't recognize some of them.... A lot of these kids will leave gangs if they're given alternatives that interest them." "My brothers, my aunt and uncle were all in a gang, so it was just natural for me," says Shad Childs, 18, who's enrolled in the Project Oz program. "I was about 9 when I got into it. I would just hang around, watching what they were doing." Milo Alvarez, 16, has friends who are gang members, but he is not. Project Oz is working with him to keep it that way. Anti-gang programs have been around since the '60s; few have proven successful. It's still too early to tell if Bloomington will succeed where larger cities have failed. The hope is to offer hope, especially to the upcoming generation of kids. If it takes a village to raise a child, it will take that and more to turn gang kids into productive members of the community, ca Contributing editor Tom McNichol last wrote for USA WEEKEND about the revival of poetry. 10 USA WEEKEND • Sept. 27-29, IW6

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