By Ariella Rams
Every December the Anaheim Police Department comes together to discuss the upcoming goals of the new year.
2013’s focus? The community’s youth.
According to Lt. Tim Schmidt, the overall program merge was a relatively easy decision for the Police Department.Over the past few years, Anaheim PD has implemented different youth programs such as Safe Schools, the Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership (GRIP), Cops 4 Kids and Girls Club. The goal for this year is to combine these programs along with other police and community programs under one umbrella: Youth Services.
“When someone calls the PD and says, ‘I have a 14-year-old, a 9-year-old, or a 12-year-old’…we can send them to one place, one communication,” Lt. Schmidt said.
That one place is Sgt. Tracy Hittesdorf.
“She is very talented and has a lot of confidence,” Lt. Schmidt said. “She’s the right person for this job.”
One important aspect of Sgt. Hittesdorf’s job will be to oversee Safe Schools, a detail of four investigators and one sergeant responsible for monitoring nine high schools, seven junior high schools and about 40 elementary schools.
In the past decade, youth gang involvement had been on the rise, but since the introduction of GRIP, school attendance is up significantly and teachers and parents are able to more clearly identify the signs of deviance and gang involvement.
Another program Sgt. Hittesdorf will oversee is Cops 4 Kids, which takes children ages 8- 20 into either the Junior Cadet Program or Explorers Program. Elementary school children are welcome to participate in after school activities and homework help at the Cops 4 Kids center. Both age brackets are taught discipline and responsibility. The program also builds positive, strong relationships between the youth and the police and greater community.
In Oct. 2012, the Anaheim Police Department embarked on a mobile Cops 4 Kids program. This brought interaction outside of school, into neighborhoods, to teach short lessons such as the potential harm of “Stranger Danger.”
An area that Sgt. Hittesdorf will be actively involved in is the Girls Club – a place for young women to go as a safe haven from gang violence and involvement.
The Girls Club “instills leadership and confidence in young women,” said Lt. Schmidt. “We want to put female mentors and positive role models in a spot for girls to look up to, to gain pride in themselves; Sgt. Hittesdorf is the person for that.”
According to Sgt. Hittesdorf, the integration all of the youth programs under one umbrella will “enable the officers and civilian personnel to better asses the needs of children and place them in an appropriate program.”
“City residents want community services and programs for our youth,” Lt. Schmidt said. “This is the Police Department’s portion of that. Let’s tell the community that this is what we have out there for the community to get involved.”
To find out more information regarding the youth programs, visit http://www.anaheim.net/police.