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Gang Violence: Getting a GRIP on Gangs

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 66 Issue: 10 Dated: October 1999 Pages: 119-121
Thomas M. Panther
Date Published
October 1999
3 pages
Police officers in Arlington County, Va., have developed a program, referred to as GRIP (Gang Resistance Involving Parents), designed to identify at-risk youth and educate them and their families on gang activity, the lure of gang recruitment, and the consequences of gang involvement.
Recognizing the presence of gangs in Arlington County early in their development, the Arlington County Police launched a multifaceted, proactive, community-based approach to gang activity. The Police Department continues to work closely with other nearby jurisdictions, including Federal law enforcement agencies, on gang crime intelligence and criminal investigations. In addition, the police have launched numerous efforts to target gang activity. These include targeting quality-of-life offenses in areas that are experiencing gang activity; assigning school officers to prevent violence by patrolling middle and high schools during release times; teaching Gang Resistance Education and Training in the schools and at the police overnight summer camp; assigning community-policing teams to neighborhoods plagued by gang activity; partnering with adult and juvenile probation and parole officers to ensure compliance with the terms of probation and parole; and providing GRIP training to parents, siblings, and youths who are at-risk for gang involvement or recruitment. There is a specified process for involving a family in the GRIP program. When a police officer in any assignment encounters a youth involved in gang activity, the officer completes a form that is forwarded to a GRIP officer for follow-up with the family. The GRIP officer meets with the parents and encourages the family to receive the GRIP program. During the 1-hour session, which is given in the family's home, the family learns about gang symbols and language, and the officer displays gang clothing, examples of pertinent gang graffiti, hand signals, edged weapons, home-made weapons, and clubs that have been confiscated from local gang members. The family is given two booklets that further describe gang behavior and the lure and risks of gang membership. After the preliminary meeting with the family, the officer will establish a working relationship that may involve a referral to an appropriate social service agency, closer supervision of the youth by the parents, and periodic visits by an officer to reinforce concern for the youth. This article also discusses the program's outcomes and obstacles.