- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

D.C. police and local clergy teamed up in a form of divine intervention yesterday to help those living in the District's most violence-prone communities.
The second annual East of the River Safety Awareness Day, held at the Penn Branch Shopping Center in Southeast, started out on a high note with gospel songs from Cops for Christ, along with a host of other performers who entertained a steady stream of people living near the Anacostia River who came out for a day of safety education, hot dogs, hamburgers and cold drinks.
Pepco, Riverside hospital, ADT Security, D.C. Rape Crisis, My Brother's Keeper and WMATA were some of the organizations on hand to give advice on what to do during emergencies to young and old.
Fire engines, police cruisers and motorcycles, a U.S. Coast Guard boat and two Metro buses were parked not far from a Children's Safety House, where youngsters learned some valuable safety tips, including: Don't put pot holders near stove burners and don't hide in the closet if your house catches fire because firefighters won't be able to find you.
Donald Isaac,16, was one of those who enjoyed a hot dog and some chips while listening to performers. The 11th-grader who attends Gonzaga High School in Northwest said the event fosters good feelings between the police and the community.
"It's good to be able to get together and participate in different activities. And, it shows how a community should work. I've seen a change for the better [in the community]. It's more peaceful, and you know help is nearby with the police presence. There's less to worry about," Donald said.
The event was sponsored by the East of the River-Clergy-Police-Community Partnership, which was founded during the summer of 1999 to battle violence and homicides among youth 12 to 26 years of age who live east of the Anacostia, said its co-founder, the Rev. Anthony Motley of Redemption Ministry in Southwest.
Mr. Motley, 53, teamed up several years ago with Assistant Police Chief Michael J. Fitzgerald, who grew up in Southeast. Their hope was to stop the violence in the most troubled neighborhoods and save young lives.
"We try to intervene in the lives of young people who are already involved in the criminal justice system or are about to be. We hired youth peer leaders from the neighborhood and their job is to keep us in tune with what's going on," Mr. Motley said about the Clergy-Police-Community Partnership.
"And, we have tried to put in place the services people might need or their families might need."
From his vantage point, Chief Fitzgerald, a 31-year veteran of the force, said it is important to build trust early, before young minds were shaped in the wrong direction by what they saw and heard around them.
Some children never had an encounter with the law but because of television shows they develop a warped view of police and law enforcement agencies, he said.
"There's a long way to go, but we have made some strides," Chief Fitzgerald said yesterday while enjoying a hot dog of his own.


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