LYNWOOD — Within the next two months, both girls and boys are expected to lace on boxing gloves to participate in a fledgling youth athletic league being started by the Sheriff's Department to curb street gang activity.
With the help of a state grant and the City of Lynwood, the deputies have secured a free building and hired a woman boxer to teach 6- to 18-year-olds about "boxercise."
"An athletic league is not a new idea for the department but entirely new for this area," said Lt. William Sieber, who is in charge of operations for the Sheriff's Lynwood substation. "I know that programs like these turn the community around as far as juvenile delinquency is concerned."
In the Lynwood substation area, which includes the City of Lynwood and the unincorporated county areas of East Compton and Willowbrook with a combined population of 85,000, the Sheriff's Department estimates that there are more than 50 youth gangs.
13 Gang-Related Murders
During the past year, there have been 13 gang-related murders and 1,708 incidents involving gangs in the Lynwood substation area, according to the Sheriff's statistics.
"Thirty of these gangs are very active. We would like to reduce the number of active gangs by at least 25% and their involvement in narcotics and substance abuse by 50%," Sieber said.
To get the league started, Sieber--with the approval of the Lynwood station commander, Capt. Nick Popovich--asked Sgt. Melvin Caradine to come on board as coordinator.
Caradine, a 19-year-veteran of the department, spent more than 10 years at the sheriff's Firestone substation where he help start that station's activity league in 1972.
Aided Youths Remembered
Over the years, Caradine said, he could point to a number of youths helped by the program that requires participants to remain in school and maintain a C average, as well as avoiding gangs. Some of those youngsters went on to gain distinction. Caradine mentions Greg Townsend, a Los Angeles Raiders defensive end; Cynthia Cooper and Larry Friend, both USC basketball players, and Patricia Johnson, a graduate of UCLA law school.
The Lynwood program will be aided by a grant to the city by the state Office of Criminal Justice Planning. The project is subject to annual review by the state, but the city could receive $63,000 a year for three years, Caradine said.
Other Youths Welcome
Even though, the grant was awarded to the city, youths from Willowbrook and East Compton can join. However, the department is currently attempting to get county funds to support league activities in those areas, Caradine said.
The boxing program will be housed in the former Montgomery Ward automotive center at 3100 E. Imperial Highway. Montgomery Ward, which closed its retail store in March and opened a clearance outlet on the same property in April, donated the empty automotive center to the city.
"We think it is a great project, and we support it," said Kurt P. Nielsen, manager of the clearance outlet. Once the city obtains necessary liability insurance, he said, the program can move in. Deputies say that will probably be in 30 to 60 days.
Lady Tyger to Coach
Meanwhile, Marian Trimiar, who fights professionally as Lady Tyger, has been hired to run the boxercise part of the program.
"The kids will be given a combination of physical training and self-defense including jumping rope, general exercise, punching both the speed bag and the heavy bag," Trimiar said.
"The girls will also be allowed to box competitively if they want to," Trimiar said. The boxing program will be open to about 200 youths.
Trimiar, who lives in South Los Angeles, said she started fighting professionally about 12 years ago. She said with limited opportunity for women to fight professionally, she turned to teaching boxing as a way for people to keep in shape.
She said her most recent program was in the Imperial Courts, a housing project in Watts, where she taught youngsters self-defense. "Kids who learn self-defense gain self-confidence and don't go out and fight (in gangs)." she said.
Trimiar will receive $10 an hour with her total hours not to exceed more than 350 hours for the year, as part of the grant stipulation.
A $20,000 boxing ring, which remains unassembled in the Montgomery Ward automotive center, was donated by an El Monte businessman who wishes to remain anonymous, Caradine said.
In addition to boxing, there will be seasonal sport programs, such as basketball, which will be run by volunteer coaches. The basketball program, which is expected to involve more than 1,000 youths, is expected to get under way soon at city parks, Caradine said.
"We are busy phoning parents, asking them to allow their children to participate in the league," he said.
"Many parents are reluctant to let their children go to the parks because of the fear of gangs but when we let them know Sheriff's deputies are involved in the program, they are less reluctant. We also tell the parents we require that they must become involved in the program by making sure the kids go to school and get their home work. They can also volunteer to help."
"All the parts are there," Caradine said. "Kids, parents, grant, equipment. Support from the officials. Once the insurance goes through, the boxing program will start. We are ready."