An effort to keep kids out of gangs is literally on the move. For the first time, the Lansing Police Department's G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) school-based program is hitting the streets. Officers are working with the city's Parks and Recreation Department and area faith groups, to connect with kids using fun summer activities.
At Comstock Park, LPD held a 3 on 3 basketball tournament for boys ages 9-11. There were prizes, food, and music. LPD Sgt. Rodney Anderson says it's all about making a lasting connection with the city's future adults. "We're having positive interactions with them, we get to know them, we laugh, we play games, and often when they see us in the street, they're happy to see us."
Dozens of boys and their families showed up. Among them, 11 year-old Reginald Bush, Jr. Even though he lives across town, he says it was worth the effort to make the trip. "To play basketball with my friends and have fun."
Reginald Bush, Sr. says, "It ain't like it used to be. People are changing. This generation is changing. Stuff like this will keep them busy and keep their head straight."
Church groups offered food, and a local radio station held a dance contest. Kids young and old took part. Even some police officers showed off their moves. Sgt. Anderson said, "We recognize that every life has value. Every youth and family of that youth that we can touch, it enhances our ability to do our job in the community."
LPD Chief Mike Yankowski spent time talking with kids and their families. He says the summer events are an important way to keep kids out of trouble, and out of gangs. "We want to be able to provide them with some good skill sets and to show them that they have a friend in the Lansing Police Department."
Parents are happy their kids get the chance to get to know the officers who protect them. Bush says, "To teach them that the police is on their side. You know, as long as you're out here doing the right thing, they gonna help you. You out here doing the wrong thing, they going to take care of you."
Lansing Police have a couple of other neighborhood activities planned over the next month, before taking the G.R.E.A.T. program back into the middle school classrooms this fall.