OGDEN -- The Ogden Police Department will roll out an innovative $157,000 program next month aimed at rescuing teens from gang activity and helping them become productive community members.
The CROSS program, for Community, Re-entry, Opportunities, Social and Suppression, is being funded through a state grant, said Lt. Scott Conley, head of the police department's gang unit. It was developed by the department in conjunction with local judicial, education, religious and social services officials.
"It's a new concept for law enforcement," he said. "Word has gotten out about what we are trying to do. It's been a long building process that will make a difference in the community."
Efforts are under way to hire a pair of coordinators to manage the CROSS program, which will be based out of a donated office belonging to Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership at 25th Street and Lincoln Avenue adjacent to a police substation, said Conley.
The coordinators will have extensive backgrounds in social work and will be bilingual, said Vernon Hairston, the police department's civilian gang coordinator.
The coordinators will manage a caseload of 15 to 20 at-risk youths for a minimum of 10 weeks and as many as 160 youths a year. The program will serve individuals between the ages of 14 to 18.
Hairston has high hopes for the CROSS program's success.
"It we get five to 10 (youths) back on track (each year) and make them productive citizens, that would be huge," he said. "But we hope to do better than that."
The police department is partnering with a variety of organizations, including Your Community Connection, OWCAP, the United Way of Northern Utah, state Department of Child and Family Services, state Department of Work Force Services, the Ogden School District, Weber Basin Job Corps. and Second District Juvenile Court.
Mel Sowerby, first vice president of Your Community Connection's board of directors, said the proposal for the CROSS program seems impressive.
"It sounds like a really good idea," he said.
Julee Smith, executive director of Your Community Connection, said the CROSS program is definitely needed and will fit well with existing programs in the city.
"It will be a nice resource to have," she said. "We need as much networking as possible to make sure that we connect the youth to the services they need."
The CROSS program will place a special emphasis on helping youths at risk for gang activity turn their lives around, Hairston said.
The concept for the CROSS program was initiated by the police department in December and has five components.
The opportunities component will help provide participants access to better jobs and specific types of education and training.
The suppression component will include arrests, surveillance, probation and imprisonment of offenders and communication between the police department, state Division of Juvenile Justice Services and Second District Juvenile Court. The CROSS program will also have a re-entry component that will identify resources to help participants become successful members of the community.
Selected at-risk youths will be ordered by Second District Juvenile Court judges to participate in the CROSS program, said Conley. Participants will undergo a needs assessment by a licensed clinical social worker to identify areas that will aid them in getting back on track.
The program will then designate which resources should be made available to each participant. Coordinators will work closely with probation officers to ensure that participants comply with the program and will report back to the steering committee.
The steering committee will provide a report to the judge who ordered the individual to participant in the program. In addition, the coordinator will track for a year the progress of those who complete the program to determine if it is working.
The program can be easily implemented because most of the agencies involved only need to coordinate services they already offer to youths at risk of gang activity, said Hairston.
"It's so simple," he said. "What we are asking them to do, they are doing already. We going to focus all those services according to the individual's needs."
The Ogden Police Department already has been contacted by community leaders in Provo, Salt Lake City and other municipalities who may be interested in implementing the CROSS program, said Conley. He would like to see the program spread throughout the Wasatch Front so that large amounts of federal funding can be obtained for anti-gang efforts.