BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Feeding the hungry and clothing the poor are two fundamental practices area churches partake in. But these institutions are being tapped to offer another service to the community – take care of Daytona Beach’s children.
As requested by board members from a Midtown Redevelopment Area Board meeting last month, a Daytona Beach Police Department representative attended the July 18 meeting to address what measures were available to area youth.
Steve Miller, who sits on the board, has been saying for months that more programs should be available to the children and teens of Daytona Beach, specifically those in and around Midtown, where the population is largely Black.
More programs needed
Captain Lance Blanchette of the Daytona Beach Police Department agreed with Miller and says that the need of programs for students, especially during the summer months, should be addressed by more than just the police department.
Asked board chair Martin Tooley, “Is there anything that can be done to get some programs in place?”
Banchette replied, “The city is always trying to work on more programs for juveniles. As you well know, ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop. We are trying to get the churches involved to help with the burden of having some programs for juveniles to do.”
Blanchette noted that activities at Derbyshire Park are currently taking place and that football practice will begin in August, an activity that draws in many teens.
“There is not enough. There needs to be more,” Blachette continued. “The city is looking for outside help, specifically churches. That is a great foundation. Any program that a church sponsors or a church gets behind we find that it is a great program to keep juveniles on the straight and narrow.”
There are over 50 churches or faith-based organizations in Daytona Beach’s 32114 or 32117 zip code.
In a previous interview, Daytona Beach Leisure Services Director Percy Williamson told the Daytona Times that there are many programs available for Daytona Beach’s youth including a summer employment program as well as academic and athletic programs at the multi-million dollar Yvonne Scarlett-Golden and Midtown Cultural and Recreation Centers, including aquatics, math, aviation, basketball and the arts.
16 gangs in Daytona
Blanchette told the board that there are 16 known gangs in Daytona Beach.
“We had a big problem with the City Girl Gang during Juneteenth. They got out of control down there,” he continued.
“We know who the bad seeds are. These are the kids who we want to try to get an intervention on through the juvenile justice system, through the other programs that are out there. Get them accountable for their own actions. If we can do that with the leadership of these gangs, we can actually stop them from recruiting, stop them from bringing other kids down the wrong path. That is our goal.”
Vice Chair Patricia Heard asked if the names of youth who have been identified by the police department who need help could be shared.
As juveniles have certain rights protecting them from identification, Blanchette said announcing their names in an open forum would not be a good idea but through a one-on-one call some information could be given.
“I guarantee you, you will know some of these kids or the families of some of these kids,” he added.
Officers in schools possible
Blanchette also shared with the board that the police department has applied for a grant to take over the school resource offices in six Daytona Beach public schools. He explained that having officers in the school would allow students to have direct access to the department and would bring students and officers together.
“If we get this grant, it’s going to be big for this city,” he remarked.
Miller reminded the board of a previous suggestion to create a parks and recreation board to which Blanchette said he would fully support.
He added that youth also are in need of better employment opportunities. “We don’t want to just put them in a job, we want to teach them something, a job they can build on, and learn from and move up and move forward. We don’t want them to just sell French fries at some restaurant.”
Lastly, the captain suggested that although the church is a good start, parents need to get involved with their children.
“Parents are powerful people especially when it comes to their kids, especially when they reach out to other community members, churches and other groups to help.”