"It's a first-time program in the entire state of Utah, where we are opening communication channels between resources that deal with troubled youth," said Lt. Scott Conley, of the Ogden Police Department, at a Wednesday news conference announcing the program. "We as a police department can't arrest our way out of this problem. It has to be a community effort."
Ogden police and more than 30 other partners worked for a year and a half to build C.R.O.S.S. The acronym stands for community, re-entry, opportunities, social and suppression five strategies organizers say are crucial in fighting gangs.
The program will serve Ogden youths ages 14 to 21 who are referred to the program by their probation or parole officer. Two program coordinators will determine what the youth needs anything from counseling and reading help to job skills and positive social activities.
The coordinators will then draw resources from all the community partners enlisted. Between 30 and 40 youth will be able to participate at once in the program. The goal is to assist a total of 160 youths and their immediate families within the year.
"There are a lot of adolescents who have this great opportunity to be successful, but don't know how to get there," said program coordinator Dana Hernandez, who has worked with youth for the past 13 years, part of that time with Juvenile Justice Services.
Coordinators say once an adolescent involved with a gang or at risk of joining a gang leaves the juvenile justice system, more intense follow-up is needed.
"What we are going to do is help them follow through with the plan put in place," said C.R.O.S.S. coordinator Kris Murphy. "We'll create a plan that is going to work for them and make sure they're not falling through the cracks."
The program will be sustained by donations and a $157,000 state grant set aside for juvenile-oriented programs.
The C.R.O.S.S. office is at 2481 Lincoln Ave. in Ogden. Groups participating in the program include Ogden Gang Metro Gang Unit, Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership, the Ogden School District, Weber State University, the Department of Workforce Services, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the United Way of Northern Utah.
Whom does C.R.O.S.S. help?
C.R.O.S.S. targets Ogden youths ages 14 to 21 who have been involved with a gang or are at high risk of joining one.