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Newsletter Exploring Gang Issues Goes To Press

As a result of earlier meetings addressing gang activity in the Braddock District, Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) and a newly established Outreach Material Committee are going one step further and producing an informational newsletter addressing the issue.

In the past, Bulova hosted a community dialogue on gangs, chaired a town meeting on gang activity and attended a weekend conference with the Department of Justice on gangs. It was decided that calling the community outreach newsletter something like the "Gang Gazette" is the wrong approach. The newsletter includes information resources such as after-school activities, preventive programs, promoted family and community involvement, and explored gang awareness issues.

"As a result of the weekend engagement, we need to find ways to outreach to the community," Bulova said.

The newsletter is one level of outreach.

"It was a tiered approach to how we do outreach," Bulova said.

The committee’s newsletter, "Family and Community United," now in its infancy stage, will serve to address risky behavior by teens that may lead to gang involvement. It will contain information parents need to determine whether their child is involved with gangs, and points of contact for those seeking help. If communities want to incorporate portions of the newsletter in their own community newsletters, they will be able to access the material online.

THE OUTREACH Material Committee is honing a newsletter prototype before going to print. The committee consists of Bulova and her staff, police officers, school representatives, county human services personnel and representatives from community centers in the Braddock District.

"They wanted to produce a product that would appeal to everyone. It's [first draft] a prototype that would possibly go out to the whole community," said Florence Naeve, Bulova's chief of staff.

Michelle Chapman-Campbell, director of the David R. Pinn community center in Fairfax, called the newsletter a positive dissemination of information, resources and more. She responded by e-mail, as did other members of the group.

"The newsletter is a great opportunity for the community to highlight positive human interest stories in the community," Chapman-Campbell wrote, "in addition to giving the community an opportunity to address critical issues and also act as a resource guide for services offered in the community and contact information to access those services." .

Dennis Hunt, at the Center for Multicultural Human Services, considered the newsletter a good way to reach a certain portion of the population but added that face-to-face meetings will be needed as well.

"For the many who are minimally literate or who do not respond well to printed materials, it is usually important to use other means of outreach," he wrote.

Capt. Debi Burnett, commander, Fairfax County Police Youth Services, was part of Bulova's gang initiatives from the start last February.

"We will proceed with expanding our outreach material in a variety of ways; however, initially the subcommittee will proceed in preparing a newsletter which will provide timely and relevant information to the communities in the Braddock/Heritage area," Burnett wrote.

"Families who fear their kids might get into a gang, they can look at ways to help stop it," Bulova said.

Bulova even went as far as suggesting the newsletter might get into gang members’ hands, although it is not specifically intended to be directed at current gang members.

Working with members of her anti-gang dialogue over the past several months, Bulova could see that the group needed to coordinate its efforts.

"The biggest thing we learned in the dialogue is how much resources are out there. What we lacked was coordination," Bulova said.

The Outreach Material Committee originally wanted to get the newsletter out by Aug. 3, which is National Night Out, but it found the first draft needed more work. The group will meet again Thursday, Aug. 5 to approve the final draft, and then go into print.