How to occupy young peole during the coming summer months and ways to improve neglected areas of the Southwest neighborhood were the major topics of discussion at a town hall meeting last week, co-sponsored by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2D and the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly.
"It's going to be a long, hot summer. Everybody is worried about this business of no employment for youths. What do you do?" said Ethel Williams, a member of ANC 2D.
Brainstorming participants in the meeting suggested asking local supermarkets to hire young people to help carry groceries, forming groups of youths to clean up areas which have suffered from vandalism and organizing "Crime Stopper Clubs" for youngsters.
Since the KOPS (Keepers of the Park Service) Program was formed in Anacostia, "there has been no vandalism in those park areas," said Patricia Frohman, of the Women's Commission on Crime Prevention. "This could work in other areas with the same results."
According to Frohman, KOPS was started last year in Anacostia as an experimental antidote to vandalism. Park Service employes provided KOPS children with tools and gardening materials and taught them how to develop a piece of federally owned land into a park or garden, Frohman explain.
The Crime Stoppers Club, another program which was well-received at the meeting is designed to instill in its members a respect for law. The club is for boys between the ages of 8 and 12.
"We want them in the formative years, before they get into crime," a Crime Stoppers spokesman said. "We get them before they start gangs."
Members wear Crime Stopper T-shirts, earn badges and learn the basics about law, such as definitions of felony, misdemeanor and other terms. The program is 10 years old, and "not one boy has been locked up" in the club's history, the spokesman said.
Southwest residents were enthusiastics about pursuing Crime Stoppers and KOPS in their neighborhood as a means to curb vandalism.
"But you're missing all the teenagers," said one woman. "They're looking for a job. Something with money."
One man suggested taht they ask merchants at Waterside Mall to fund a "courtesy patrol" of youths who would keep the area orderly and help people with their packages.
In order to repair land scarred by Metro construction and other development participants at the meeting suggested planting pear trees near the Waterside Mall and Cypress trees along the freeway to screen out traffic. ANC Commissioner Dick Westbrook told the committee he would relay the suggestions to the city's Department of Transportation.
Ben Lemlick, an Environmental Protection Agency employe and a Southwest resident, agreed to approach his cowworkers to see if they could help with summer employment and beautification efforts. EPA is located at 401 M St. SW.
In addition, a committee was formed to plan a summer recreation program for youths.
Wesley Long, ANC 2D chairman, later said he was glad that some "concrete commitments" resulted from the town hall meeting. "Some of the ideas will work. Some won't," he said. "It all depends on the individuals involved."