Santa Ana school police launch new safety effort

Helen Afrasiabi (California Health Report) | January 3, 2012

The Santa Ana Unified School District is launching a school safety measure with a grant of nearly $500,000, awarded by the Department of Justice.

A major part of the effort targets children at risk for gang involvement. The key is reaching kids far earlier than before, said school police chief David Valentin.

“Gang activity starts unfortunately very early in some instances,” Valentin said. “Really if you’re talking about true gang prevention, not intervention, you’re looking at elementary school aged kids.”

This could even mean kids as young as fourth graders, he said.

“They have a sibling who is incarcerated, or other family members already in gangs and these kids are on the track of following suit, for any number of reasons,” Valentin said.

The grant from the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Service office is awarded based on strong community policing plans and multi-agency partnerships, said DOJ spokesman Corey Ray.

Santa Ana has a tradition of community policing that dates back to 1973. The school district police officers commit themselves to a particular geographic location and getting to know the community.

Establishing strong relationships with stakeholders including kids on campus, staff and residents is key to prevention. Knowing who to speak to can make all the difference in prevention, Valentin says.

“The idea is get out in the police car, walk around and see who makes up community. If they hear rumblings, officers with that good rapport who are respected can get information and prevent a fight or assault,” Valentin said.

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1 Comment for “Santa Ana school police launch new safety effort”

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