Lakewood, NJ – Several Lakewood leaders met at the Lakewood Township Municipal Building recently to discuss their thoughts about anti-gang programs that might attract vulnerable children between the ages of seven and 14. Mayor Menashe Miller and Lakewood Township officials have applied for a three-year federal grant of $750,000.00 in the hopes of developing programs that focus on primary prevention in young children.
According to Joanne Bergin, the grant writer, studies conducted by the federal government have shown that children between the ages of 7 and 14 are most vulnerable to gang recruitment; therefore, this program focuses on a combination of approaches including gang-specific school curriculum, after-school activities and family education and support.
The anti-gang strategy meeting is one of many being held in Lakewood with different community groups and local leaders to enhance collaborative efforts to develop gang prevention programs.
Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein, who has met with officials from other towns about their programs and projects to combat the appeal of gangs, said, “We are looking into the Phoenix Curriculum, a program to help teachers. In addition to the schools, we are reaching out to our community leaders through churches, synagogues, and social service organizations.”
Committeeman Lichtenstein asked members of the anti-gang strategy committee to host meetings during which township officials could outline possible gang-prevention programs and hear ideas and feedback from parents in order to realistically develop and implement youth programs, such as sports, field trips, and events not only in school but after school and during the summer time; programs for families to help them help their kids; and programs in the community that would help everyone form a bond that would help and protect children.
Committee Lichtenstein urges residents to call the Quality of Life hotline at 732-942-5003 to report unusual activity in any abandoned houses or apartments; or if they notice any drug activity, illegal activity, or gang activity in general; or if they see any areas tagged by gang graffiti.