The LAPD and the Watts Bears are curtailing gang activity
Written by Jason Lewis (Los Angeles Sentinel) | June 20, 2013
There are several layers to youth football. Learning the fundamentals of the game; building a strong work ethic to achieve a goal; working as part of a team instead of being an individual; learning how to deal with the ups and downs of winning and losing.
For the Watts Bears, the layers go well beyond the football field. The Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Safety Partnership has partnered with the Housing Authority to field a team of boys from the Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts, and Jordan Downs housing projects. There have been several youth football teams in Watts and the surrounding areas, but none like this one.
This team, which debuted last year, is coached by LAPD police officers who have the goals of using sports “as a vehicle to introduce and reinforce the concept of strong character, positive values, personal responsibility and academic excellence.”
“The program has a mentorship component where we work with kids in the community to play football,” Officer Keith Mott said. “A part of the requirement for them to play is that we get their grades and behavior work from school. If the child is having problems at school, then they have to attend tutoring, also classes in anger management if they want to continue to stay in the program.”
Several of the players in this program do not have fathers in their household. Without a male role model on a daily basis, many of these boys have behavior issues in their neighborhoods, at home, and in the classroom, which can lead to gang involvement.
“We are being mentors to these kids who do not have a male role model in their lives,” Mott said. “They get to see police officers outside of policing. They see us as coaches, as regular people, and they see that we are just as human as anybody else. We’re somebody that they can talk to and somebody that they can look up to.”
It is important for the LAPD to show these kids, and the community at large, that they are there to serve.
“We built relationships with members of the community, and they have realized that we are there to help them,” Mott said. “It’s not like the old LAPD that is just looking to arrest people. As we have built relationships, people are letting us know when shooting are occurring, or before gang activity happens, we’re getting phone calls, which allows us to be more proactive. We talk to people, so they begin to trust us. So the word has gotten out to gang members who are not from that area that the LAPD is in this area, the LAPD is not playing, do not come into this area causing problems, because we will deal with you.”
The LAPD’s new interaction with the community has produced great results. Before their partnership with the housing authority there were 86 homicides over a three year period in the three housing projects. But over the past year and a half there have been none.
Image source: LA Sentinel