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Community News: Southeast

BELL GARDENS : Ex-Gang Members to Run Youth Center

October 11, 1992|DUKE HELFAND

Former gang members will run a new youth counseling center on behalf of the Bell Gardens Police Department when the site opens in mid-November, an official said.

The center will employ a full-time coordinator and an assistant coordinator to recruit youths in the community and to plan sports events, work programs and field trips, among other activities.

Although the positions have yet to be filled, the coordinators will have had "exposure to the gang element and changed their lives around," said Sgt. Ruben Musquiz, who will oversee the center for the Police Department.

Musquiz said he hopes to let the coordinators "run the show" in an effort to attract as many of Bell Gardens' estimated 5,000 gang members as possible.

"We want to attack the gang problem in a (new) way," Musquiz said. "(We want to) give these kids a new place to go and get them involved in something other than the gang element that's out there."

The center, the site of a former church at 5856 Ludell St., will offer a variety of services for gang members and other Bell Gardens youths and residents. The Police Department's community services division, which Musquiz heads, will be based at the center. The division coordinates neighborhood watch programs, youth services and the DARE anti-drug program.

Three civilian Police Department counselors who are based at the nearby Bell Gardens Intermediate School will also be on hand at the center.

A day-care center and a report-writing room for patrol officers is expected to open by the end of the year in a separate building at the site, and a boxing program and other sports activities will be housed in the center's gym, expected to open in early 1993.

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