Location: Manatee Crime Stoppers, Palmetto, FL
Advisor: Brenda Freeman
Manatee Crime Stoppers (MCS) is a county-wide youth program in Palmetto, FL. It was one of the first set of Youth Crime Watch (YCW) community sites started in Florida and the first community site on the West Coast. YCW had grown tremendously in the 1999-2001 period and was becoming very effective in a school setting. However, when the youth left their positive school setting to return home to their community, they worried about crime, being victimized, and living in a situation that prevented them from pursuing their hopes and dreams.
Manatee Crime Stoppers was already established as a youth group, but they knew if they were going to make their neighborhood as safe as their school they would have to incorporate crime prevention efforts into their goals and objectives. Six years ago, a grassroots effort was developed to combat the potential problems dealing with crime.
The ethnic breakdown of the MCS group is 100% African-American. Because of many factors, the population in this area does not receive many opportunities to travel beyond their city limits, and sometimes even their own neighborhood or school limits. This group of youth also does not receive the employment opportunities, specifically summer jobs, which are a great distance from the MCS Center location.
When the youth were asked what would motivate them the best, the resounding answer was “field trips.” So, every year students are able to attend a conference and two or three other informational trips, if they meet the goals set forth at the beginning of the year.
To make sure they stay current with anti-crime initiatives, at least one youth at this site sits on our Ignitus Next Generation Board. She is the conduit between our International Youth Board and the Manatee Crime Stoppers group.
When considering a community-based approach to problems, several common obstacles must be dealt with first to prevent progress from being hindered: community support, funding, youth involvement, flexibility, sharing issues and solutions, and developing long-term vision and goals.
The structure of MCS is similar to a Boys & Girls club with the exception that the Center Director is also a School Board Member. This site services an average of 112 youth annually. To insure that MCS can overcome these common obstacles, the specific initiatives are in place at their site location:
- Tutoring: The members and others they recruit provide tutoring services for elementary, middle and high school youth. Ninety percent of kids who use this service pass the Florida FCAT test required for a Florida student to graduate high school.
- Mentoring: Members identify students who may be having difficulties and try to help them through the process.
- Pre-Medical Class: This is a resource course for anyone interested in the field of medicine. Doctors come to give talks about school, finances, curriculum, etc.
- Crime Prevention: Sixty members belong to YCW and spearhead activities that could help stop crime in their community. They have participated in our YCW conferences for the past six years.
- Field Trips: Two trips for college visits take place every year. One includes the Florida Classic football game and the second is a full tour of two Florida colleges. A good percentage of students end up attending the colleges they visited. This year, members attended a trip to Orlando, FL to attend a symposium on the emotional and physical development of males and females. Because national pregnancy rates are on the rise, MCS has an annual event dealing with this subject matter.
- Summer Job Placement: Every year MCS conducts an employer workshop with the members. They receive information from community leaders on how to dress, speak and act during a job interview. Ignitus has been a facilitator on this and other leadership topics. Additionally, they hold a second job fair for 90 kids with employers from the community attending and interviewing possible applicants who had attended the previous workshop. On average, 60 youth attend and 50% of them receive summer jobs.
MCS has grown into an extremely effective group of youth over the last two years. The “you can do it” motto has made each group of youth more successful than the last. Because of the vast array of successful services provided by MCS, they have been able to purchase a building from the City of Palmetto. The city also secured a remodeling grant to make the building more functional in providing YCW programming. The grand opening was held in December 2010. MCS now has two separate sites for youth to attend.
Over 90% of youth who completed the tutoring program at MCS passed the FCAT exam needed to graduate from high school. Over the years, the staff and community have seen a steady increase in the number of youth graduating from high school and attending college. These overall results have led potential employers to visit the community annually to interview youth for summer jobs. Going forward, we hope to provide training for a training of trainers group to be able to visit other communities and train youth there on how to create a successful best practice YCW community-based program site.