Why we need the H.E.L.P. Program
Delia Hunley-Adossa, President
Founder of HELP Program and 88th Pct. Community Council President
According to the Center for Disease Control homicide has been the leading cause of death for Black males between the ages of 15-34 for the past thirty years. Homicide is the second leading cause of death for Hispanic males between the ages of 15 and 34.
With gun violence rapidly escalating among the youth in our society there is an urgent need to address this issue in our communities immediately with a tangible way of changing the mindset of our youth. Thus the concept of the HELP Program “Helping Encourage Leadership Potential” is an innovative program that is geared to reduce youth violence, prevent drug use, promote child safety, and improve relationships between police and young people, with a special emphasis on youth most at risk. Basically the concept of the HELP Program derives from the 1990’s when the increase in gang violence and an overwhelming recruitment into the gangs began rising, and the drastic decrease of youth programs, lack of positive and productive social activities for youth started trickling down throughout NYC. In addition, truancy was on the rise.
After our pilot in 2002 we tracked for a year plus the activity of the youth that had participated in the HELP Program and our findings were far better than we anticipated. In fact, the majority of the same youth that participated and graduated from the HELP Program are presently 88th Precinct Explorers and/or volunteers with the 88th Precinct Community Council today. As the youth began interacting in a positive manner through the HELP Program and finding a positive way of channeling the negative energy and venturing out into the world outside of their eight block radius they no longer wanted to take part in gang activities. The same youth that were once “warring” with each other started becoming friends and positively competing through working on becoming good productive citizens and challenge the same youth they were once fighting against to do what they are now doing, i.e. attending school, respecting authority, building character, becoming good citizens and gaining good work ethics. These same youth began mentoring their peers and have a good relationship with police officers. Our program is intended to reduce youth violence, discourage truancy, prevent drug use, promote child safety, and improve relationships between police and young people, with a special emphasis on underprivileged youth most at risk. This mission is accomplished through the development and administration of the HELP Program.
The objective of the H.E.L.P. Boot Camp (Phase I) is to teach the boot camp participants’ self-discipline, gang and drug abstinence, conflict resolution, career development and positive social skills. The program promotes positive social interactions and youth development by addressing current youth issues, i.e., substance abuse, truancy, violence, health promotion, early parenthood; improve self-esteem, decrease the risk of gang involvement; improve and demonstrate goal-setting skills. In addition, decrease violent and other inappropriate behavior, improve conflict resolution and other life-affirming skills, increase positive police communications with the youth, decrease truancy, improve reading and writing, and offer alternative activities, etc. Moreover, the boot camp participants are nurtured and mentored by positive role models that they can relate to from their social environment. This program encourages the participants (youth) to build positive relationships with the community and police department who otherwise might have been a statistic and in the penal system. This program is about being proactive and unique to any other programs in the community and many other communities.
As a civilian I understand that we must develop community policing and it is important to bear in mind that police must act in accordance with the many different, sometimes competing, values of the society in which they work. How the public translates these values into policy must be the subject of vigorous public debate. Moreover, how our youth interpret these values is more important to my initiative and goal.
All through the Mid-century reform leaders used powerful metaphors to support the changes they were putting in place: police were a “thin blue line”; they fought “wars” on crime; they were “professionals.” These leaders dismissed many historic police services such as order maintenance as “social work”; the only true police business was “crime fighting.” Virtually the only things police departments counted were serious crimes and arrests; other police activities came to be labeled as “junk” work or much worse. Yet observed studies have shown that crime fighting accounts for only about 20-25 percent of police work.
Candidly, it is no secret that many officers, in
The HELP Program provides our participants/students, their parents, and NYPD Officers with a unique experience to begin to establish positive lines of communication and develop a deeper understanding of each other. Additionally, this program is a vehicle for the youth to choose their own paths to becoming good productive citizens. Our results demonstrate that our students and parents gain a more sophisticated knowledge about the role of police in society, the scope and limits of police authority, and an appreciation of the challenges officers face.
Moreover, they begin to understand that protecting the public against crime is most effective when they cooperate to identify and prevent the most pressing problems in their community. Bringing the police into contact with the neighborhoods that they serve can only forge positive relations based on trust, helping reduce resident fear of crime while improving the ability of officers to work with communities to solve crimes when they happen. In an era of decreasing resources, especially after the attack on New York on September 11, crime prevention offers a cost-effective way to make communities safer; community policing engages residents as well as law enforcement in that sizable task. By making the most of both, communities greatly increase their capacity to resist crime, reduce fear, and restore or sustain community vitality. Young people need to know that there are concerned adults who care about them now and in the future. We aim to make a difference and guide them in a positive direction. By accomplishing the above this will definitely impact neighborhood well being for us all.
In closing, it is my hope and belief that Police leaders will close the gap between the new definitions of function and their department’s tactics, and between the organizational structure and its managerial processes, as rapidly as possible. Furthermore, contemporary police leaders must develop images for community policing that are as powerful as the war metaphors of an earlier era. I still do want to believe the NYPD remains committed to community policing and I hope that the NYPD adopts the HELP Program within the Department in the near future.