In the hopes of combating the ever-growing problem of youth violence, a community-wide committee is being formed to develop programs to give juveniles a chance to escape the gang scene that has surfaced in the community.
“We should have started these programs years ago, but better late than never,” Winslow Police Chief Steve Garnett said.
Garnett talked about adding a ride-along program to the consequences juveniles have to face when charged and convicted with a crime. The kids would ride with officers, in the front seat of the patrol car, and witness what a cop’s day is like. This program still has to be approved by the Navajo County Supreme Court.
“We want to the kids to see [cops] aren’t the enemies,” he said.
Garnett cited another benefit from a ride-along program would be that the police force could possibly recruit young men and women to joining their ranks. He talked about how by hiring young people who have lived in Winslow their entire lives, the community, as a whole, will benefit.
“We want to hire kids that grew up here and know the community because it will bring pride back to families,” he said.
Hiring new officers who have lived here also has the benefit of having someone on the force that is known within the community, making it easier for citizens to access the force because they know someone on the inside.
Garnett is also looking to establish a program similar to the Explorer program that was popular in Winslow in the past. The program is targeted at getting high school and junior high students off the streets and doing something productive.
Steve Zukowski of the Weed and Seed Program feels that if citizens can “present a unified front of neighbors who care and socialize, not police the kids” then the programs can be a success.
“These kids are striking out in anger and we need to find out why,” he said.
Garnett feels giving kids the “ammunition to make their own decisions” is better than just telling them not to do something.
The next meeting where citizens can express concerns about the ever-growing problem of youth violence and a committee to fight the problem will officially begin its operation will be held on July 26 at the Madre de Dios Church in Coopertown at 6 p.m..
The first of these committee meetings occurred on June 28 and had approximately 40 citizens on-hand to express concerns. At a meeting held on Thursday, July 12, a few citizens gathered to express further concerns to Garnett. “We hope to start a volunteer program in Winslow to fight the problem of youth violence with the police department as a guide, not the implementers,” he said. “Our number one goal is to improve the quality of life in Winslow,” he concluded.