Elgin Police officers will announce a new program designed to prevent local youth from becoming involved in gangs and violence.
The plan, which Police Chief Ana Lalley previewed on her weekly radio show Friday, will see police reaching out to community organizations, faith groups and mentors willing to steer young people toward positive choices. The program will be announced at the Elgin City Council meeting on Wednesday.
âA lot of parents don’t know their kids are planning to get involved in gangs or get involved in violence,â Lalley said on his radio show. “We did a comprehensive analysis and thought about whether there was a better way to approach some of our youth programs.”
The new initiative, called a ‘Youth Empowerment Program’, focuses on providing young people with educational, intervention and mentoring opportunities.
Its creation follows criticism of the School Resource Officer program from members of the Elgin U-46 Area School District School Board, City Council members and the public over the past year. The concerns centered on racial disparities showing that black and Hispanic youth are being arrested and otherwise disciplined at a rate that exceeds what would be expected of the school population.
Although the school board and city council voted to continue funding school resource officers, promises were made to continue to move more towards a social service approach.
The police department has also been running a gang prevention program since 2009 called Operation Homefront. This program involves police officers making voluntary home visits with parents of young people who come into contact with the police due to possible gang activity or violent behavior. Lalley said there will be changes to that as well, so it’s not just the police who are involved in interacting with parents to help their children on a better path.
“It’s about seeing things differently, how to keep kids away from things that might not be good for them, and how to do it in a positive way,” she said.
City Council has already approved funding for this overhaul, which will be carried out with the help of outside consultants with experience working with Chicago police and city street gangs. Lalley said his presentation on Wednesday will unveil the schedule with more details to come.