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Ogden program hopes to reintegrate gang members into society

By KSL.com | Posted - Oct. 27, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.



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OGDEN -- Several Ogden agencies are coming together to prevent a growing gang problem from getting worse. The program will be court-mandated for at-risk youth and gang members to reintegrate them into society.

Ogden has put together an impressive list of resources that will participate in the program. They hope the participants will get the help they need to turn their lives around before they end up career criminals.

CROSS Program
Community
Re-entry
Opportunity
Social
Suppression

Lt. Scott Conley, with the Ogden Police Department, said, "An entity like the police department cannot arrest our way out of this problem. It's got to be a community effort."

The program is called CROSS, which stands for Community, Re-entry, Opportunity, Social and Suppression. It's a 10-week program that provides services for troubled youth, aimed at reducing gang membership.

Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey said, "A lot of times, parents don't know how to deal with it and what they should be doing to help their youth become more productive and more successful in society."

Target Population
  • Males and females
  • Ages 14 to 21
  • High-risk youth
  • Gang involvement
  • Reside in Ogden City

So now the Weber County juvenile courts system will recommend that some of the young criminals go into CROSS. The program will incorporate 15 to 20 kids at a time, males and females from ages 14 to 21. They hope to reach 160 youth in the first year.

Program coordinator Kris Murphy said, "One of the things that we're hoping to do is to show them that there are other options for them out there. Often times they are participating in that kind of activity because they don't know there's anything else out there that's available."

The teens will go through goal assessment, aggression therapy and skills training. They'll also have the chance to get their gang tattoos removed by laser for free by a McKay-Dee Hospital Center dermatologist.

Dr. Jason Hadley said, "It's going to be nice to volunteer on someone that just needs that step, that help, that final push to be able to rejoin society."

State funds and private donations are getting the program off the ground. Ogden law enforcement has partnered with more than 30 groups to mitigate the gang problem.

Moises Prospero, with the Utah Criminal Justice Center, said, "All of them have the potential to change their minds and say, ‘You know what? I don't want that life anymore.' But once they make that change, we have to be ready with the appropriate resources."

After the 10-week program ends, the two coordinators will follow up with the participants for a year, just to make sure they continue on that path.

-----

Story compiled with contributions from Nicole Gonzales and Paul Nelson.

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