Kelly's been around long enough to see various gang initiatives come and go. The walls of his seventh-floor office off the 16th Street Mall are lined floor to ceiling with awards and photos. Some of them feature Kelly with famous people like boxer Evander Holyfield, but most are photos of kids from the streets. Kelly can point to any one of them and tell a sad story. "He's dead," Kelly says. "He's dead. Peanut's gone. That's John." John called earlier that day. It was a collect call; he was in jail again.

But Kelly doesn't wish GRID ill. He's just made a decision to stay out of it and focus instead on his long-running after-school program in the Cole neighborhood. "Any efforts out there I applaud, because it's better than nothing," he says. "It's cool if you're filling voids, but in some sense, it would be nice to have the resources spread around.... I trip a little bit when the people in the trenches, doing what we do, don't have the resources."

Roberts shares that belief but says he came to realize that it can't all be about prevention. At least not yet. "My heart is still dead set on the only way to end violence is to stop recruitment [into gangs]," he says. He has his own plan for doing so. While Crips use blue to recruit and Bloods use red, Roberts is pushing for Park Hill — and all of Denver — to adopt camouflage as its signature look. That way, kids can feel like they belong to something. "But why I wanted to come back to the table [with GRID]," he continues, "is because I do care about the men and women caught up in the system."

Bryan Butler, Terrance Roberts and John Lewis of the Prodigal Son Initiative work with youth in northeast Park Hill.
Bryan Butler, Terrance Roberts and John Lewis of the Prodigal Son Initiative work with youth in northeast Park Hill.
Johnny Santos, an outreach worker with the Gang Rescue and Support Project, likes that GRID brings all agencies to the table.
Johnny Santos, an outreach worker with the Gang Rescue and Support Project, likes that GRID brings all agencies to the table.

"Even gangsters need a hand," says Bryan Butler, one of Prodigal Son's two GRID-funded outreach workers. Butler and John Lewis, whom everyone calls Qwest, have been with Prodigal Son since January. They're still developing their roles, but they hope to work intensely with a couple dozen youth a year to help them realize that gangbanging doesn't lead to anything good.

"The thing we're strong on is mentoring," Lewis says. "It's good for them to see someone from the 'hood living a professional life. 'If I can go to school and work in television, you can, too.'" Lewis grew up in Montbello and used to work for the Altitude television network as an audio engineer. "We're just teaching them to be men," he adds, "and telling them when they're bullshitting."

Lewis and Butler expect to find most of their clients on the streets of northeast Park Hill. But GRID also holds monthly meetings of what it's dubbed the Intervention Support Team, a collection of representatives from various government and community agencies that interact with gang-involved youth. If a certain youth (boys and girls ages 14 to 24) meets GRID's criteria — if he has weapons charges, for example, or if she's just getting out of prison — an outreach worker will be assigned to work alongside that youth's official case manager. Callanan estimates that GRID's six outreach workers have a total of 35 cases right now, but he hopes that number will grow to 100 by the end of the year.

Jessica Cassarino also attends the Intervention Support Team, or IST, meetings. As GRID's opportunities provision coordinator, her job is to help 16- to 24-year-olds who are affiliated with a gang, or are at high risk to join one, find jobs or enroll in school. She gets many of her referrals from the probation officers and outreach workers affiliated with GRID. Cassarino started in June 2010, and says that about 90 percent of the youth she's worked with have rap sheets. Some have committed armed robbery or aggravated assault, and a few were involved in the Holly Square arson. Working with the IST ensures that their cases don't fall through the cracks. "Because they're taking notes [at the meetings] and it's a formal setting, we're able to hold each other accountable," she says.

The Mental Health Center of Denver is also part of GRID's intervention strategy. MHCD has developed a trauma treatment program called Project RISE for youth ages eleven to seventeen who have witnessed violence. It's a group that meets for sixteen sessions and teaches kids how to handle stress. "A lot of the symptoms of traumatic stress make them even more at risk for joining gangs," explains Lynn Garst, MHCD's associate director.

GRID doesn't pay for Project RISE; instead, it's funded through a two-year $760,000 federal grant that ends this September. Nearly all of the 180 kids who've gone through the program thus far come from violent neighborhoods. Many have family members who are gang members, and some are toying with joining themselves. Project manager Beth Tamborski describes the youth as "emotionally volatile." If someone looks at them crooked, they're likely to blow up and shout, "Quit staring at me!"

Garst is also part of the GRID Intervention Support Team. Outreach workers and G.R.E.A.T. coordinators refer kids to Project RISE, and on the flip side, Garst refers Project RISE kids to Cassarino and GRASP, which offers groups for gang youth.

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29 comments
Nomo
Nomo

I always have to laugh at these GANG Initiatives who come out and try and convince us of "what it is we REALLY need in our hoods". How the fuck would you know what's truly going on when half of you WHITE fuckers are sitting in each others offices planning your next happy hour? You either hire these conservative fuckers to run programs like GRID based upon his previous gang experiences from a completely different state or you dole out money to a former thug dying to return to his previous neighborhood to "save" the homeboys in Park Hill. When was the last time any of you fuckers actually walked into one of these homes to see how these people live? When was the last time YOU actually had a conversation with ANYONE outside of your comfy little circle of friends? You have these jobs based on who you know and who you blow-not because any of you fucking fakes earned them. So stop acting like you give a shit about anyone other than your next fat paycheck!!!

Another thing, you can create more rec centers and after school programs all you want, but that still doesn't fix the problem of poverty. How many of these programs feed these people? NONE!!! So at the end of the day when it's a matter of a kid standing on the corner trying to make a few ends to eat, or trying to adapt to a lifestyle that mimics yours, trust me, his ass is staying on the corner taking the risks that none of you are willing to do or have ever done to survive. 

Take some of that 2.2 million and try feeding these people and buy them a bed. And increase the pay of the ACTUAL people doing the work you frauds are taking credit for. Or......just stop pretending to care about them because they see through your bullshit. After all, at least you know where you stand with gang-bangers. It's always a fucking guessing game with guys. You frauds are the real threat to the REAL people doing all the work. So shove it up your asses!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob Block
Bob Block

Why not also involve some gang members in understanding the issues and development of solutions?

Bruce
Bruce

I lived in China two years ago. Amazingly, no gang violence (in a city of 13 million!). I found out why- their "three-strike" rule only has two strikes. After your second offense of a violent crime, you are executed within 2 weeks. The only reason it doesn't happen sooner is because they need time to sell all of your organs...

Stan
Stan

All I'm saying is that we used to belong to Mexico. California, too. In case you didn't notice, the shooter arrested in the City Park incident doesn't exactly look like a border-jumper. I don't think getting rid of the illegal population in Denver would've prevented the death of Officer Hollis. P.S. - Fuck California.

theLUX
theLUX

The problem with all of these alternate methods to halting gang violence is none of them address the underlying problem in the hood, and no one in government, or in the community seems to want to address it either. The reason there is a gang scourge in the hood is because the family units in the hood have eroded to the point where these kids seek out some sense of family where ever they can find it. Unfortunately that will most likely be gangs. I grew up in a Mexican household with a mom and a dad. This in many cases is more than most of these kids have. I also grew up with two parents that were hard on me, and loved me very much. There wasn't a day that went by when they didn't ask what I was up to, where I was going, or what I was doing. The best way to affect change in the hood is to reinvest in the family structure. If kids have someone who is there for them, and someone who is going to get on their ass if they get out of line, then they aren't spending their days miles away from their home banging in neighborhoods that they don't live in, or belong to. Whether the family unit atrophied due to financial stresses, or substance abuse, it can be repaired. If people begin to take pride in their home, their neighborhood, their community, and their region of town this nonsense all dies out. The problem is it's impossible for someone to convey this idea without stepping on toes. It takes the minority groups at the crux of the issue to self-actualize, and to accept that this problem will not go away without taking action. You can not rely on outsiders to raise up your community, you have to do it yourself. That realization is painful because it means judging your neighbors, and realizing that certain households are fundamentally broken, and it isn't "The Man's" fault. You, yourself are responsible for what is happening inside the walls of your home, not oppressors. I grew up broke as shit. My mom worked at KMart and my dad, like most Mexicans, worked construction, but my sister and I always had hot meals. My dad was too proud to let his kids eat free school lunch because it meant he wasn't providing for his family. Sadly that sense of pride is dead in the hood. Only reinvestment in the community can revitalize that sense of pride. Nothing demotivates a community like living in a neighborhood covered in graffiti. It is the graphic representation of a neighborhood that has rolled over and given up. Something as simple as being prideful in your home and painting over that shit means, "THIS IS MINE! YOU DO NOT OWN THIS! I OWN THIS!" and then you see your neighbors doing it, and before you know it, it disappears from the houses, and the walls and moves to the dumpsters, and then nowhere at all. My elderly tia has lived in Baker, since the 60s before Santa Fe was an art district. Back when it was a drug track, and as long as I can remember she's walked down to the store to buy spray paint to cover graffiti. She wakes up early to go outside and mow her lawn and sweep the sidewalk. It's a sense of pride that says, "THIS IS WHAT RESPONSIBLE MEXICANS LOOK LIKE." Having pride in your neighborhood doesn't mean you put your tag on things that don't belong to you. It means helping your neighbor fix their fence. It means picking up trash, not trashing the block. The problem is, having TRUE pride takes work. It doesn't mean waking up at 11am to walk down to the park to hang out with your homies. It means getting up early to go to work to raise your kids, and be involved in their world. It means keeping your house in an orderly fashion, both outside, inside, and mentally being there when problems arise. All the brothers in the Northeast, and the vatos in the Southwest need to see through the actions of the hoods that they "represent" that they aren't helping. They aren't showing the community love by ruining the neighborhoods they claim to love. That type of love is just destruction, but until we as minority parents, and community members realize that the problems begin and end at home, nothing will change. This is not a brown people vs white people problem. The white hoods in Downtown Denver are well kept because the neighborhoods aspire to have a nice neighborhood to raise their kids. This isn't a "racist" view. This is a realistic assessment of our problems, and spinning this in any other direction is just the refusal to accept responsibility for the problems in your community. As a Mexican with two children of my own, nothing makes me angrier than seeing a Latino walking around in a wife beater with shorts that nearly touch the ground, house slippers on, and all flagged up. You are not a man, you are a child. You are not only damaging the people around you, you are damaging our entire race by perpetuating stereotypes. You are the reason the amazing diversity of Southwest Denver is unseen by most Denverites. You are responsible for the hardships of the community. You don't have love for the hood. You have love for being a selfish, irresponsible asshole. If you really loved the hood, you'd work to buy a home, maintain your yard, have kids, raise them right, and grow the community. This can not be taught by bringing parole officers into schools and telling kids the horrors of gangs. We know the horrors. We grew up with them. We've been to the funerals for coursins, uncles, brothers who aren't fucking here anymore. They died. They're in the ground because they all had love for the hood. The wrong kind of love. The easy kind. The fast buck kind of love. Not the hard, long term investment kind of love. The kind of love for the hood that comes from working and seeing your dream of owning a home come true. The kind of love that comes from holding your newborn in your arms and knowing that you would die before you let anything happen to this child. That is real love.

Ladeeelmo7
Ladeeelmo7

All Y'all Mothafuckas Is Stupid , Woopx2 Free All My Niggas Dawg !

Diamondcutter556
Diamondcutter556

Should hang these killers and dope sellers on the street light poles with their gang colors and tats showing for two weeks each until they vanish from the corners!

guest
guest

While a somewhat shocking idea, gather up all who have gang affiliations. cordon off a 2 square block area. put a keg of whiskey on one corner of the lot, and a bushel basket of straight razors on the other corner. When the last one is standing, walk through the park and put a bullet in the heads of all survivors.

Guest
Guest

Too much glorified stuff in rap lyrics/videos/film to curtail it. Too much peer pressure if " you are not one of us". The city/police covering up the Lodo beat downs (and mayhem in the lots around Coors Field) a few years ago by the gangstahs spoke volumes. A TV station breaking that Rollin was an admitted PHB when the chief and mayor were still spinning their gang thing spoke huge.

Librarian
Librarian

Oh Sean, you are sooo... right... Denver .... Want to get together for some literacy?..

Jamier247
Jamier247

It needs to be addressed beyond the police, we as a whole community need to raise our voices and get this city to act to give more resources, our state to provide more after school programs... Parents, teachers etc everyone needs to be involved. It's not just the problem of the poor, or low income housing areas it's not a race issue. If the city keeps hiding we have an issues of Colorados gang problem how is the community suppose to band together? And sorry Smokey I disagree with your statement that our police are more of a danger to us than gang members...I've never had a cop shoot at me for wearing a certin color or for not saying hi...I've had gang members do that but never the cops. When I lived in South Centeral I didnt worry about a police cruser going down our streets, I worried as did all the kids on our block

Jamier247
Jamier247

Yes they do but the Mayor and Chief White are looking to disband many of them. You have resource officers who not only work with anti gang awearness groups, community leaders as well as teach gang awearness to schools, parents etc... But since in the Mayors eyes and the Chief idea on how to save money since Colorado doesn't have a gang issue(LMAO about their recent down play) were losing these men and women because they must feel its better to be reactive than proactive.

Terrance Roberts
Terrance Roberts

I think this was a good article and I appreciate all of the efforts of everyone who makes it their business to help the youth. Like I said in the article though, I am positive that if we keep children from joining gangs they have no other choice but to die out (gangs), that coupled with intervention for those already involved and we can win this war! Thanks for the love "aintwithit", but we are trying to work well with other peace warriors and if that's the movement then we respect all parties! But yes we are in the community everyday and will continue to be......

Terrance Roberts
Terrance Roberts

I think this is a good article and I appreciate all the eeforts, even though as I said when we can stop children from joining gangs, we will win the war someday! Thanks for the love "aintwithit", but we are trying to help the situation, not cause problems with other peace workers. But yeah we are in the community no doubt about that!

Carla RespectsNothing
Carla RespectsNothing

awesome should this should happen before summer starts not when killings happen for no reason...they should know this already hello??

Stan
Stan

You know "Colorado" is a Spanish word, right?

Bad MotherFucker
Bad MotherFucker

Didn't you hear? The mayor said it, so it MUST be true: There is NO gang problem in Denver! That poh boy didn't mean to shoot that POH-lice, it was, what you call it? Oh, uh ASSIDENT, thass all. Ain't no gangs here, no SUH! Wees all just be chillin' together in bone thugs an harmony.

JB
JB

So, where are the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons during this "tragedy". Why aren't they saying a single word about this crime?

Librarian
Librarian

try spell checking your words ... nithing is spelled wrong... it should be 'nothing' .... also 'a bunch of punk as police' should be 'a bunch of punk ass police'... google literacy help in denver and ... GOOD LUCK! ...

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

Indeed. Get rid of the illegal infestation in Colorado, or should I say "Calirado".

Aintwithit
Aintwithit

Bullshit article for the police and G.R.I.D. which us nithing but the police and have never gotten one of my homeboys or girls out of a gang! Barely even gave one line to the voice of Terrence and Prodigal Son crew who we see in the turf every single day! Thanks Westword for reminding all of your real readers why you suck so much! Oh GRASP is a bunch of punk as police too!

Realistic
Realistic

Can start by deporting the illegals.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

So why don't you move back there permanently, if you appreciate such draconian enforcement of good social order?

Odinsfmly
Odinsfmly

What an excellent, intelligent reply. If everyone would come together as described above, what a difference that would make!

Odinsfmly
Odinsfmly

That was an awesome reply, there needs to be more folks like you.

Stan
Stan

You know "Colorado" is a Spanish word, right?

Terrance Roberts
Terrance Roberts

Appreciate the love..... But GRASP is there when we need them so if really got love for PSI, then show them some love too cause we all got a different approach....

 
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