Understanding the vital role that communities can play in supporting children caught in the middle of high-crime areas, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention has announced that it has awarded $250,000 to six jurisdictions to start Police Athletic League (PAL) programs. PAL works to prevent juvenile crime and violence by offering educational and extracurricular activities to participating youth.
The new PAL programs are beginning in Annapolis, Baltimore City, Cambridge, Cecil County, Salisbury, and Hagerstown, to align with priority areas identified within the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network (MCIN)which targets the dismantling of gangs and violent criminal networks. PAL programs in MCIN-designated areas provide an alternative, safe place for youth whose lives have been impacted by violence and other traumatic circumstances. That trauma, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACES, has been shown to have a direct correlation between physical, psychological or substance use disorders later in life.
“This is about creating environments in which children feel safe,” said V. Glenn Fueston, Jr., Executive Director for GOCCP. “This program is intended for youth to see a different side of law enforcement and it gives police an opportunity to get involved in children’s lives in a meaningful way.”
“The DMV PAL aims to break barriers, change attitudes, and build meaningful relationships by providing opportunities for youth and officers to positively engage with one another through a variety of educational, recreational, and extracurricular activities,” said Cherelle Hill, Director of DMV PAL. “With the help of Governor Hogan and his team at the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, youth in the great state of Maryland are afforded the opportunities to step out of their comfort zones and cultivate openness to new experiences, in a safe, inclusive space.
The PAL awards come on the heels of an earlier announcement of the expansion of Handle With Care Maryland, a program designed to help children who are exposed to violence through seamless and careful communication, as well as collaboration between law enforcement and schools. Under the Handle with Care model, if a student has witnessed or had a traumatic experience the night before, law enforcement will simply email or call the school and, without providing details, alert them that their student has experienced something that may have an affect on his or her mood and behavior. Law enforcement will communicate that the student should be handled with understanding and care. The goal of the program is to provide the help needed for students to thrive, despite and in spite of the traumatic circumstances.
Along the same lines as Handle With Care, PAL offers support to children — from 5 to 18 — outside of school. Law enforcement officers participating in the program must commit to a minimum of 4 hours per month and they are required to attend additional training and information sessions.