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Northern VA Leans On Non-Profits For Help With Gangs

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Northern Virginia has been having success in fighting the spread of gangs with the help of community groups.
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Northern Virginia has been having success in fighting the spread of gangs with the help of community groups.

By Jonathan Wilson

Law enforcement leaders in Northern Virginia say they're having some success fighting the spread of gangs, and much of the progress happens when police and prosecutors hand over some responsibility to community groups.

Bob Bermingham, director of Fairfax County's Juvenile Court, says its often hard to get teens, especially ones who've been in trouble with the law, to take advantage of services offered by law enforcement or county government.

He says that's why Northern Virginia's counties have turned to non-profit NVFS, or Northern Virginia Family Service, to work one-on-one with teens.

"By using non-profit organizations, we've found it to be more successful to get them engaged in the proper services or needs that they may have," Bermingham says.

NVFS administers the regions IPE program. It stands for Intervention, Prevention, and Education.

IPE workers meet with at-risk teens referred by law enforcement or the court system.

One teen, a former gang member who didn't want to give his name, has been meeting with his IPE worker, Carolina, for three months.

He says before he met Carolina, he didn't have anyone to give him advice when he got into trouble.

Carolina says his grades are already improving.

"Before he was going out every night, staying out late, sometimes not coming home till the next day," she says.

So far, the IPE program has worked with more than 300 teens and a report from the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force shows that from 2003 to 2008, many gang-related crimes were on the decline.

Bermingham says measuring gang activity is often tricky but points to one statistic he's proud of -- Fairfax County, hasn't had a gang related homicide in three years.


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