The Lansing Police Department has re-launched the G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program. After a 5 year hiatus, LPD is teaming up with the Lansing School District and the City of Lansing Parks and Recreation to teach kids how to stay out of gangs.
The G.R.E.A.T. program is a school-based program taught by an officer. It's introduced in middle school and offers kids skills to avoid juvenile delinquency and gang association. LPD started the program back in 2007 with federal money. It ran until 2009. During that time, Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski says there was a 16% drop in youth-related crimes. “You have to be proactive, and this is all about getting ahead of the curve, getting these kids at a younger age."
LPD put the program back in the classrooms in January of this year. School resource officers and community policing officers teach the lessons to students in middle school. That’s when police say students are entering the time in their lives, when the wrong friendships can lead down the wrong road. Chief Yankowski says “We are talking about groups of kids that most of the time are anywhere from 4 to 8 to 10, in a small area of the city, and those are the aspects of the GREAT program that we are trying to break them up at a young age."
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says the GREAT program can change lives. “It's going to help those kids that are mainly on the bubble, that could, that have a foot in either direction, that could be drawn into a gang, drawn into drugs, and this keeps them on the right road and is hugely valuable."
This summer, for the first time, LPD will put the GREAT program out on the streets. With a van donated by Shaheen Chevrolet, and decorated with a sports motif by Central Michigan Graphics, officers will go to different locations throughout the summer months, offering kids a way to gather, through sports. Chief Yankowski says, “We'll go into certain parks in the city. The kids will be just running around unorganized. We want to bring some sports methods out to them and building those social relationships on a day to day basis, to make sure those kids understand the police department is here to help them."