YORBA LINDA — A newly formed community organization, Group Resolving Anti-Social Problems, or GRASP, announced Wednesday its intent to join the battle against gangs in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
At a press conference in the Richard Nixon Library, supporters including Presiding Orange County Juvenile Court Judge Francisco P. Briseno, state Sen. John R. Lewis (R-Orange) and Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) said they hope GRASP can generate community support much like another grass-roots organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Katherine Hatch Smith, a former teacher and the organizer of GRASP, said one of the group's main goals--and perhaps its most controversial--is to require schoolchildren of all ages to wear uniforms.
"It will bring safety to the children and allow schools to be able to identify who belongs on campus," Smith said.
Huntington Beach Detective Mike Mello said gang-related clothing is a problem in many areas because it glorifies gangs, spreads their influence and creates conflicts.
Smith said she realizes that achieving many of GRASP's other goals, such as setting up after-school sports programs and extended-day child-care centers and using closed military bases as training centers for first-time gang offenders, will be costly and difficult. Despite the costs, she wants to get the organization moving through a grass-roots effort.
"The solutions have to come from the community. Our goal is to provide resources such as access to judges in the juvenile court system to whomever is in need," Smith said, adding that MADD started as a simple group that was much like GRASP.
As a nonprofit organization with a membership of over 25, GRASP plans to become a resource center for people who need help with the gang problem. Organizers also intend to lobby local and state government to adopt the group's goals.
"I hope this organization can reach people in the community, and we can convince the state Legislature and local governments to help us stop this gang problem," Smith said.
"At the beginning of the year, I found living here intolerable," said Smith, an Anaheim resident.
"But now I want to empower this community . . . to show them that there is a solution to the gang problem."