- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

A member of the D.C. Council yesterday said he is “outraged” that the Metropolitan Police Department chose to close its free summer camp for underprivileged children in the District for the first time in nine years.

“This shows a total lack of sensitivity by the police to the needs of our community,” said D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat.

The Washington Times reported yesterday that 175 District children enrolled in the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) summer camp program might be out of luck this summer because of the hasty cancellation.

Many of the children enrolled in the camp, located this year in Ward 7 at the Arts and Technology Academy Public Charter School at 5300 Blaine St. NE, come from low-income families or are in foster care and group homes.

“Camps like these are our best crime-prevention tool in the summer, and this isn’t putting our kids as citizens first,” Mr. Chavous said.

D.C. police canceled the camp Friday, after learning that the federal grant required to run it would take longer than expected to arrive.

The annual grant comes from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and is a little more than $250,000, said Andrew Lluberes, spokesman for the ATF. Mr. Lluberes told The Times on Monday that the funding should come through this week.

“That money covers the school course for children in public and charter schools, a course for parents, and a part of it has to be used for some sort of summer program,” he said.

The summer camp, which began in 1994, costs $40,000 to $50,000 and covers meals, workbooks for courses, transportation, and trips to Six Flags, Hershey Park and local museums.

Mr. Chavous said he is working with Margaret Nedelkoff Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, on a commitment from D.C. police to find the funding to run the camp in the interim.

Police officials said the grant money has come late numerous times in the past, but the camp has always been staffed and funded somehow. D.C. police would usually fund the camp from its budget, but this year police officials said no funding is available.

“We’re still looking at other ways to fund the program, in addition to the money coming from the ATF,” said Assistant Chief for Special Operations, Alfred Broadbent.

He said the police officers are available to staff the camp. “If the ATF delivers the funding before it is too late in the summer, we will kick off the camp.”

Dozens of parents, unaware of the cancellation, showed up at the school Monday morning and dropped off their children, only to be called back to pick them up.

Several parents complained that the late notice, during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, put them at a disadvantage in finding other camps for their children, because most camps were either too expensive or full.

One parent, Kevin Chapman, 35, whose daughter Ashley , 14, was enrolled, said he didn’t believe the camp was closed when a police officer called him to relay the news.

“I was told at least five times that the camp was off, then on, and then off again, then on again,” said Mr. Chapman, who lives in the Southeast neighborhood of Randall Heights, in Ward 7.

Mr. Chapman said the police should have been straight with residents instead of “crying wolf” the entire month of June.


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