DOWNEY - In a showcase of community involvement, commitment, and collaboration, city officials, law enforcement, business owners, school board members, religious leaders, and non-profit organizations gathered together on Wednesday afternoon to both support and celebrate Gangs Out of Downey, which has worked the last 23 years to prevent gang activity among youth.Sheriff Lee Baca of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department delivered the keynote address during the fundraiser luncheon at the Rio Hondo Event Center, exhorting the organization to continue its work while seeking ways to do more. "I want to celebrate the history of G.O.O.D. and reflect on it in terms of - what can we do next," he said. "What can we do in Downey that would even go beyond what we've done?" Baca spoke of the importance and value of education, including his own Doctorate of Public Administration, which he earned from the University of Southern California at age 51. "I didn't need it for work, I didn't need it for a practical reason," he said. "But for a value reason. Talking about gangs, they don't have a value system in mind. They don't know how to deal with life." First elected in 1998, Baca manages the largest sheriff's department in the country that protects nearly four million people, polices 42 contract cities, and oversees more than 200,000 inmates in the county jail system. Baca encouraged Downey community leaders to take their service to another level. "What's next? How can we go beyond? That's our challenge," said Baca. "Do something you don't have to do. That's what G.O.O.D. is about, take a pro-active effort and say, 'I'm going to make a difference.'" Founded in 1989, Gangs Out of Downey seeks to educate parents and youth concerning gang avoidance, provide interventions for youth at risk of gang involvement, and encourage the establishment of new diversionary programs. Kent Halbmaier is the organization's president.
********** Published: April 19, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 01