With a $1.1 million federal grant, Pittsburgh’s public schools and a handful of partners are trying to save gang members one at a time, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The U.S. Justice Department awarded the school district one of four grants nationwide for a Gang-Free Schools and Communities program, which began in 2003. Since then, there’s been a drop in the percentage of gang-related killings in the target neighborhoods, while the rate of other gang-related crimes has held steady. Supporters said the initiative — involving city police, probation officers, social service caseworkers, and the YMCA — has yielded a more complete picture of gang activity and given gang members repeated opportunities to start anew.
“It’s kind of unprecedented,” Sgt. Mona Wallace of the city police intelligence unit said. Much of the time, the battle is waged with low-key intervention and prevention efforts. Outreach workers and the other agencies formed a team that meets periodically to review files on 100 15- to 24-year-olds recruited into an intervention program. All are in gangs or at risk of joining them. While outreach workers offer daily guidance to gang members, the intervention team determines whether vocational training, mental health services, or participation in sports or church activities might benefit them in the long run. “Each kid has his own treatment plan,” said Mary Hatheway of Allegheny County Juvenile Probation. “It’s definitely beneficial with some kids. I won’t say the large majority. I don’t think it’s ever going to be that way.”