Grant will benefit at-risk youths

February 05, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - A grant of more than $100,000 that will pay for a police position focused on combating gangs also includes funding for programs aimed at at-risk youths, Washington County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Daryl Sanders said.

Buck Browning, director of development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington County - one of the agencies that will offer gang-prevention programs, said the classes for youths could begin this summer.

"Just saying 'no', or telling kids to say 'no' is not enough. The kids need the skills to know how to do what is right," Browning said.

The Herald-Mail reported Jan. 23 that part of a grant would fund a Hagerstown City Police officer position that would head an anti-gang unit.


Sanders said most of the $111,919.72 grant will go toward the salary and benefits of the city police officer, but $25,000 will go toward gang prevention.

The Sheriff's Department applied for funding for its own anti-gang officer, but Sanders said that request was turned down. The original grant application asked for $194,000, he said.

The Sheriff's Department will continue to seek money for its own officer, Sanders said.

Memorial Recreation Center, the Washington County Board of Education and CSAFE also will offer youth programs focused on gang deterrence, Sanders said.

Browning said a national Boys & Girls Clubs trainer will teach staff members and community members, including representatives of the Washington County Public Schools system, a program called Street SMART. After adults learn about the program this spring, they will be able to begin teaching it to youths, he said.

Street SMART, which is aimed at youths ages 11 to 13, is focused on gang prevention, conflict resolution and teaching children to be positive peers, Browning said.

"The more good that we can give them, the less bad that they can get in," Browning said.

He said last week he was excited to get started.

"The fact that the Sheriff's Department was able to get this money indicates there is a problem, and we're going to fix it," Browning said.

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