The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), a component of the US Department of Justice, announced that Marietta will be awarded $76,559 for the city's Weed and Seed program to fight gang-related activity in the Franklin Road community. This newest grant is in addition to the $375,000 the city has already received for the Weed and Seed program.
"One of the main reasons we have been awarded again is we have a proven track record of making effective use of grant money," Daneea Badio, Marietta's Weed and Seed Coordinator, said.
Badio said the money will be used for many different programs in the Franklin Road area, which she anticipates we will start at the end of 2007.
The following programs and actions will be implemented over a two-year period primarily through after-school programs and summer camps. The Anti-gang Initiative includes a range of programs because a broad range of risk factors is identified. Research and local experience suggests that addressing only a single risk factor will be ineffective in combating gangs in the community.
- A soccer program will be developed to provide recreational and educational experiences for up to 150 area Latino youth. The program will provide three different sessions each week for 50 youth in each session. Training will be provided by Soccer in the Streets, Inc., and Marietta Police Department officers will serve as coaches and mentors for participants. Youth will periodically get to play in community games and travel to games outside their neighborhood. A similar program for youth interested in basketball and tennis will be implemented with support from other community resources.
- Turner Chapel AME Church Drama Ministry will sponsor a Youth Drama Camp to include weekly instruction in theatre, workshops, field trips to artistic productions, auditions, rehearsals and a full production to be presented by the youth.
- Travelers Aid will provide emergency assistance to families experiencing economic crises, such as loss of a job by the parent, or a medical emergency. Families of youth at risk of gang involvement will be assisted with rent, utilities, job referrals and other services to help them overcome the emergency and return to a stable status. Travelers Aid has access to resources for such assistance, and will require only modest staff support.
- Marietta Police Department will provide additional officer patrols of areas identified as risky for area youth returning home from school or other community activities. They will be assisted by area residents in observing neighborhood conditions and possible gang activities.
A tip line will be established for reporting gang activity. Area youth, and adults, will be educated on the tip line and its potential impact on community safety.
- The Communities in Schools and Omosaze will operate a tutoring program to assist youth who are experiencing difficulty in school. The Marietta School System will assist in identifying students from the community who are behind academically.
- A youth leadership training program will be implemented by the Center for Family Resources, Inc., an agency experienced in conducting youth leadership programs for many communities in Cobb County. The program will identify youth who are interested in becoming better leaders among their peers. Participants will tackle a community problem in completing the program.
- CobbWorks and Opportunity Knocks will assist the community in implementing a job preparation program for at-risk youth. CobbWorks will assist youth in assessing their interests and abilities, and in developing a job-seeking plan for those desiring after-school or part-time employment. For participants from the Franklin Road community ages 17-21 whose families meet the CobbWorks 100% of poverty level requirements, Opportunity Knocks will: provide Career/Life skills, Job Readiness training, Mentoring, track educational progress (with their parents’ permission), offer financial incentives to students who complete high school or GED requirements, and job retention bonuses. Students who satisfactorily complete the Career/Life/Job Readiness program will also be eligible for summer job placement. Their pay will be provided by the Department of Labor.
- Prevention initiatives will be provided through positive role models and education about the risks and negative consequences of gang involvement, and equip kids with the tools to resist pressures to join gangs. The education program will be incorporated within other youth activities, such as after-school, arts and recreational programs.
Methods for measuring success
- Crime statistics to be provided by the Marietta Police Department and the Cobb Juvenile Court will measure the level of gang activities occurring in the Franklin Road Area.
- Gang membership will indicate the attraction of gangs, as opposed to alternatives developed by the program. Police officers and community members will provide measures of observed gang membership.
- Gang activities, such as visibility on the streets and the presence of graffiti, will indicate the level of gang presence, and attractiveness to area youth.
- Youth participation in healthy programs developed through the Anti-gang Initiative will provide an indicator of the attractiveness of these programs as alternatives to gangs.
- Youth, resident, and business surveys will be used to measure perceptions of gang activity and membership. Surveys will be conducted periodically to establish a baseline and comparisons over the life of the program.
Badio said that the "incredible team" of public and private partners is key to the success of the Franklin Road project. "This partnership is just more evidence of what the future holds.
Badio reiterated the success of previous Weed and Seed efforts including a 12% reduction in crime in the area in 2007 from 2006, Soccer in the Streets, the Police Athletic League, a reduction of crime related to the Q Club, a new youth association, a new business association, the court-ordered demolition of the former Chili's restaurant at 555 Commerce Avenue, a reduction in the number of serious injury pedestrian related crashes and the only GED program in Cobb that is in Spanish.
The Weed and Seed program helps rebuild and restructure communities that have suffered because of criminal activity and social decay. The program encourages residents to work with law enforcement agencies to deter crime, identify resources and restore the community. The initiative also brings federal resources to Marietta to join city police in tackling crime.
The selection of the Franklin Road neighborhood as a Weed and Seed community is the result of a four-year effort by the city of Marietta to produce positive changes for residents and business owners in the area. The effort began with the establishment of the Franklin Road Task Force and Marietta Weed and Seed committee.
The city's relationships with the community in fighting crime were a factor in Marietta being awarded the 2006 All-America City award as one of the 10 best communities in the nation. Marietta is the first Georgia city in 30 years to win the award.
For more information, call Marietta Weed and Seed coordinator Daneea Badio at 770-794-5640.