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GRACE Progress Update / Summer Camp

Throughout the fall and winter, community leaders of the Gang Reduction Through Active Community Engagement (GRACE) Steering Committee have been actively working behind the scenes on several community related initiatives. Their progress is the result of steps taken in light of the information revealed in the comprehensive gang assessment. We know gangs exist in our community and we are working collaboratively to combat the issue.

We have taken many steps forward in the past year. A part-time Regional Gang Coordinator continues to work as a resource for the community in coordinating GRACE activities. The GRACE coalition, with support from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, has applied for a grant to make this position full-time.

Additionally, a regional Gang Task Force was established consisting of city and county law enforcement, the FBI and the Virginia State Police. The full-time Task Force members work collaboratively with other partners to validate gang members and monitor gang activity in our community.

As we know from the data presented in the gang assessment, enforcement alone is not the solution. We continue to work with community partners like the Boys and Girls Club, local churches, and schools to reach children before they are recruited by gang members. Thanks to a grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, GRACE is able to pay for transportation to and from after-school programs. We learned from the assessment that the proximity of these facilities is a factor for youth. If they are unable to reach after-school activities, the students are more likely to join neighborhood groups, sets or gangs.

Last summer the Boys and Girls Club, through GRACE, sponsored an officer from the ACPD and CPD to become GREAT certified instructors. GREAT stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training. This school year, the officers who attended this training have begun to teach GREAT curriculum in some city and county schools, passing on the education. The curriculum provides life skills to help students avoid using delinquent behavior, peer pressure and violence to solve problems.

We are also pleased to announce that the Office of the Attorney General has partnered with GRACE to sponsor a summer camp for kids in our community. The 2015 Virginia Rules Summer Camp: Powered by GRACE, will be for 6th-8th grade students attending Albemarle County and Charlottesville City Schools. The camp is free and will provide life-learning opportunities along with education regarding drugs, alcohol and internet/personal safety. We believe it will be a fun and valuable experience for the youth of our community. As we get closer to the date, we will provide additional camp and application information.

Together with our community partners, we believe we are making progress and providing children with alternatives to the dangerous lifestyle associated with gang membership.

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