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Westminster Police Get Grant to Aid Youths


WESTMINSTER — The Police Department has received a $300,000 state grant to knit together a network of community programs aimed at reducing delinquency--including training neighborhood activists and setting up a cross-cultural center that enlists seniors for child care.

Westminster Police Chief James Cook said the state Office of Criminal Justice Planning notified him Friday that the department will receive the 18-month grant, dubbed "Operation Revitalization."

"This grant is many spokes to the wheel, aimed at improving the community environment, preventing delinquency, and last but not least, having a police officer work with the schools on suppression," Cook said. "But the main thrust is prevention."

Cook said the grant takes a "complete array of social programs" and knits them together around the Police Department, where a staff person will act as a consultant for the coalition of community groups, he said.

The cornerstone of the grant is a $30,000 boost to the city's Boys and Girls Club, improving services to mostly Latino and Vietnamese youth by adding staff, creating an anti-gang program and improving child-care services, Cook said.

"It's one of the most important grants the city has gotten in a long time," said Monique Lawee-Hall, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Westminster. "It brings a lot of agencies together . . . to create programs that the community in Westminster really needs. We'll obviously have more children through this grant, more projects going on, more services like never before."

Other parts of the grant will go to fund St. Anselm's Cross-Cultural Community Center, which helps recent immigrants and refugees. It will enable the center to create a citywide computer message system so police can communicate instantaneously with businesses, community organizations and block watch captains. It will also pay for a police officer to act as a liaison between schools and the city's acclaimed Tri-Agency Resource Gang Enforcement Team, or TARGET.

There also will be a boost to a cooperative program with the Westminster School District to keep middle school students from straying into gangs.

"It'll be good for the kids in Westminster and it's going to reduce crime," said district Supt. Gail Wickstrom. Having a police officer with kids on campus also is important, she said.

"They're not just arresting them," she said, "they're playing basketball with them."

The grant is unique because it includes preventive and recreational efforts that are traditionally ignored by law enforcement in fighting youth crime, Cook said.

For example, part of the grant will go to purchase dragon dance equipment so Vietnamese youth can enjoy the cultural tradition of dragon dancing--a source of pride and an important way to attract young people to the Boys and Girls Club, Cook said.

The money comes on the heels of Thursday's news that departments across the state will receive money for law enforcement programs from the state coffers, with $8 million to be divided among Orange County law enforcement agencies.

Under that one-time grant, Westminster's Police Department will receive $193,000, Cook said.

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