Elgin police to unveil new gang/youth intervention program
Elgin police officials will announce a new program designed to keep local youth from getting involved with gangs and violence.
The plan, which police Chief Ana Lalley previewed during her weekly radio show Friday, will see police reach out to community organizations, faith groups and willing mentors to steer young people into positive choices. The program will be announced during Wednesday's Elgin City Council meeting.
"A lot of parents don't know their kids are thinking about getting involved with a gang or getting involved with violence," Lalley said during her radio show. "We did an overall analysis and thought about if there is a better way that we can approach some of our juvenile programs."
The new initiative, which is called a "youth empowerment program," is centered on providing youth the opportunity for education, interventions and mentorship.
Its creation follows criticism of the school resource officer program from school board members in Elgin Area School District U-46, city council members and the public during the last year. The concerns centered on racial disparities showing that Black and Hispanic youth are arrested and otherwise disciplined at a rate that exceeds what would be expected for the population of the schools.
Though both the school board and city council voted to continue funding school resource officers, promises were made to continue shifting more toward a social service approach.
The police department has also operated a gang prevention program since 2009 called Operation Homefront. That program involves police officers making voluntary home visits with the parents of youth who come into contact with the police because of possible gang activity or violent behavior. Lalley said there will be changes to that as well so it's not just police officers who are involved with interacting with parents to help get their children on a better track.
"It's looking at things differently as to how do we get kids away from things that might not be good for them, and how do we do that in a positive way," she said.
The city council already approved funding for this revamp, which will be run with the help of outside consultants who have experience working with Chicago police and street gangs in the city. Lalley said her presentation on Wednesday will unveil the program with more details to come in the future.