Through the support of the Honorable Frank R. Wolf of Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, the Congress of the United States has funded the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force as part of the Department of Justice Appropriations Bill since July 2003.
The Gang Task Force was established as a multi-jurisdictional partnership comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to address gang activity in Northern Virginia through dedicated officers and resources, thereby making the region inhospitable to gang activity
The goals of the Gang Task Force were built upon three component strategies: enforcement, prevention/education, and intervention. The component strategy to address gang activity necessitated a phased-in approach beginning with enforcement operations and adding an additional component each year.
The Board of Directors of the Gang Task Force is comprised of the Chief Law Enforcement Officers of the following participating jurisdictions in Northern Virginia as set forth in their Memorandum of Understanding:
- Arlington County
- City of Alexandria
- Town of Dumfries
- City of Fairfax
- Fairfax County
- City of Falls Church
- Fauquier County
- Town of Herndon
- Town of Leesburg
- Loudoun County
- Manassas City
- Manassas Park
- Prince William County
- Town of Vienna
- Virginia State Police
- Town of Warrenton
A Memorandum of Understanding was also established comprised of the following Juvenile Court Service Unit Directors in Northern Virginia which formed the Steering Board to address the prevention and intervention phase for the Gang Task Force:
- City of Falls Church
- City of Alexandria
- County of Loudoun
- County of Fairfax
- County of Arlington
- County of Prince William
The Steering Board oversees the activities of the Prevention and Intervention Coordinating Committee comprised of five GRIT (Gang Response Intervention Team) Coordinators. The Steering Board evaluates the need, appropriateness and success of programs and serves as the policy and oversight board to the Coordinating Committee. The goals of the GRIT Coordinators include developing a collaborative effort between the counties, cities and towns which make up the Northern Virginia region to stem the growth of youth gangs and reduce gang violence through effective programming, education and coordination.
The Steering Board and the GRIT Coordinators have adopted the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Comprehensive Gang Model to structure appropriate strategies to address intervention/prevention programs as outlined below:
- Create and maintain formal lines of communication among the participating jurisdictions regarding gang activities, effective programming and program accessibility. Expand those lines of communication out into the community to include community-based organizations, non-profit organizations, businesses and faith-based organizations.
- Collectively develop, coordinate and implement gang prevention, intervention and education programs within the region which are targeted, efficient and effective. Program success and failures will be shared with partners and stakeholders for the purpose of extending successful services and eliminating ineffective programming.
- Create partnerships within and outside local governments in order to develop and effectively implement successful and essential programming collaboration between local governments, government agencies and community organizations such as non-profits, businesses, faith-based organizations and youth.
- Develop and implement an effective plan for educating youth, families and the community about the realities of gangs and how communities and community members can play a role in gang prevention
REGIONAL GANG ASSESSMENT
OJJDP model calls for a comprehensive assessment of gang activity which indicates:
- Scope of the problem
- Active gangs
- Where they are active, commit their crimes, live, claim territory, and go to school
- The numbers of gangs and numbers of gang members
- Where preventive and intervention services are in place and where they are missing
- Where opportunities are and what the strength and weaknesses of the community are
- The assessment will provide a road map and strategies for action.
- Allows us to maximize resources
- The assessment provides sub-reports for the localities
DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITY PARTNERS
- Facilitate communication between and among service providers in the community across jurisdictions and across various types of providers ( public, private, faith-based, community groups, business groups)
- Some have co-existed in the communities for years yet do not know of some of their existences or what they do
- This allows them to join forces/share resources and perhaps clients with the result being a force multiplier effect on prevention/intervention efforts
- Enhance ability to qualify for grants
INTERVENTION, PREVENTION AND EDUCATION PROGRAM
- Four components: street outreach, mentoring, employment assistance, family services/advocacy
- A result of input from and collaboration of the local teams, Coordinating Committee and Steering Board
- It can be implemented across the region yet be nimble enough to meet the specific needs of individual jurisdictions
- Can be replicated
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS
- Getting specific messages out to youth, families and the community with different media and messages
- Using ideas suggested by local teams and teens
- Using as much voluntary assistance and resources as possible to hold down costs