Gang-prevention funding cut
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Saturday, January 09, 2010
1/09/10 at 5:37 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Office of Juvenile Affairs has stopped funding gang intervention and prevention programs in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
OJA Director Gene Christian said eliminating the two programs is a result of budget cuts that state agencies have been forced to make because of declining revenues.
The office provided about $1.1 million for gang projects in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Christian said. About $400,000 was left on both contracts, he said.
"I want everyone to understand that the cuts are not based on failure or disapproval with programs," Christian said. "The cuts were based upon the fact we don't have the money to go forward with the programs."
Alice Blue, a senior planner with the Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa, said the Tulsa program, called the Tulsa Youth Intervention Project, put staff members on the streets to deal with gangs.
"It is basically intervention," she said. "We deal with kids — some of the hard-core, gang-involved kids — and try to be with them when they have needs. That means on Saturdays, Sundays and evenings."
Blue said staff members worked with parents and siblings, as well, to make sure that the kids got to school and to appointments.
"My fear is that once the program is dismantled, it will have to be re-created over a period of time," she said. "You lose all the accumulated knowledge of working on the Tulsa streets."
Four full-time and two part-time staff members will lose their jobs when the program's current funding runs out, Blue said.
In Oklahoma City, Effective Transitions Inc. provided gang intervention services to more than 90 gang-involved youths, said its director, Myron Mayberry.
It also provided prevention services to more than 300 youths and worked with parents of youths in secure detention facilities, he said.
"By eliminating gang intervention funding, OJA will dismantle a program that has been set up for four years and has proven successful in the fight against gang involvement and associated crimes, including a 61 percent reduction in drive-by shootings," Mayberry said.
He said the programs are mandated by the state Legislature.
Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, supported the intervention programs.
"It is easy to point fingers and make negative comments toward the Office of Juvenile Affairs," he said. But "we just didn't have the money."
Shumate said it is his hope that state finances can recover quickly and that the programs can resume.
Barbara Hoberock (405) 528-2465