Danish Parliament looks to Downey for help on anti-gang efforts

DOWNEY - A delegation comprising 20 members of the legal affairs committee of the 179-strong Parliament of Denmark paid a visit to Gangs Out of Downey (GOOD) Wednesday afternoon in what was the last leg of their 4-day tour in the Los Angeles area to gather ideas on local anti-gang practices.Peter Skaarup, head of the delegation, said gang activity in the Scandinavian country isn't a big problem yet but red flags such as Hells Angels-type activities are slowly being detected due to an influx of immigrants, especially from the Middle East. The group was met here by three Danish Embassy officials stationed in Washington, D. C., who then accompanied them on their tour. Their itinerary included visits to and comprehensive briefings by the L. A. District Attorney's office, the Lakewood Sheriff's Station, Compton Task Force, the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Center, the County Board of Supervisors, and Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, as well as interfaces with gang trial judges and Homeboy Industries (where former gang members are gainfully employed). After their delayed arrival at DUSD offices, GOOD president and concurrent DUSD pupil services director Dr. Robert Jagielski led a panel explaining the components of GOOD's collaborative strategy linking the local city government, the district, and the whole community in combating gang encroachment in Downey. Jagielski said that as a result of the combined commitment of the community's segments and the alertness of its police department and auxiliaries ("and luck"), Downey has over the last four years experienced declining trends in the incidence of serious crimes, i.e., homicides, forcible rape, robbery, etc. It thus focuses more, he said, on intervention in juvenile "at-risk" situations and, thus ultimately, on prevention of potentially serious gang issues/problems. The Danish delegation heard Jagielski expound on GOOD's programs that included the important roles played by the 10-20 Club, the Character Counts and after-school programs, police presence on campus, counseling, outreach assemblies, site administrators, the True Lasting Connections (TLC), and so on. The effectiveness of these programs has contributed in no small measure, he said, to declining suspension and expulsion rates in the district as well. Weaving their comments through Jagielski's presentation, Council member and Downey Adult School principal Roger Brossmer spoke on the graffiti tracking program, Downey Police Lt. Carl Charles on the presence of officers on campus and monthly school safety meetings with vice-principals and officers, facilitators Julian Mendoza and (DUSD teacher Anthony Zegarra) on Amer-I-Can, and City Manager's office's Juddy Ceniceros on Downey's flourishing Neighborhood Watch program. Said Skaarup: "The story of GOOD is inspiring. We go back to Denmark filled with good ideas." The delegation was scheduled to fly back home yesterday.

********** Published: September 18, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 22