Lead Deputy District Attorney Cary Epstein saw a need in the community and decided to fill it. After having spent several years prosecuting minors and young adults for violent gang crime in the Fontana Gang Unit, he realized we needed a program that would educate minors, parents, and teachers about the dangers of gangs.
One year ago, with the help of two interns, Epstein created the Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership, also known as G.R.I.P.
“I began to review a number of programs that dealt with gang reduction, but felt that there was not one particular program that addressed all the needs,” said Epstein. “There are other gang programs that share the same acronym, but I believe ours covers areas not addressed by the other programs.”
The following interview was conducted with Cary Epstein, Lead Deputy District Attorney of the Central Division Gang Unit for the San Bernardino county District Attorney:
What are some of the specific components of the G.R.I.P. program?
Like some other programs ours contains an educational component. However, ours begins addressing the dangers of gangs to children as young as the second grade. We then do a follow-up in the fifth and now seventh grade. Within the next several years we will expand to have a course in the ninth grade. Our curriculum which we created focus on the dangers of gangs and drugs, positive choices and respect for others and property. The second grade is taught over a 7 week course once a week. The fifth grade curriculum is a 9 week course. The seventh grade course is 10 weeks. The classes are taught by school security offices with the Rialto Unified School District.
The program also has a parent component. We hold parent meeting once a month that incorporate several schools within the district where the classes are taught. We have speakers attend and provide various presentations during the meetings. Topics are selected to assist parents in combating gangs, violence, truancy, crime and other areas that affect their children. We also try to schedule speakers that are requested by the parents.
The program also has a truancy component. This component is in the initial stages of the program. It is the eventual goal to work with the truancy DDA and others within the Rialto Unified School District to target the children at schools that are habitual truants. We will be able to accomplish this with truancy sweeps that target particular students. Once the sweeps occur we will get with the school and parents to work on a plan to increase attendance.
What are some of the specific successes/rewards that you have seen with your work?
The positives that I have seen through the program are many. Through the program we have been able to build a stronger relationship with the Rialto Unified School District and the community. By having the security personnel teach the course it builds a stronger relationship with them and the students. The students also seem to be very receptive of the message of the dangers of gangs. I have also seen parents during the meetings reach out to us for assistance for their older children who are starting down the wrong path.
What do you gain from doing this?
The thing I gain from the program is the hope that we have a positive impact on the students to steer them away from the dangers and influences of gangs. If we even prevent one child from joining a gang through the program we are making a positive impact.
What is your vision for this program?
My vision of the program is that it continues to grow and be moved into other districts throughout San Bernardino County.
How can others get involved?
Anyone who is interested in the program can contact me. We are always looking for volunteers to assist in the program in any way possible. This could include assisting with one of the aspects of the program, be a speaker at one of the parent meetings or become a member of the partnership. We are always looking for individuals or businesses that would be willing to donate their time or resources to the program.