April 13, 2013
BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal undefined More than 100 men and women made the first anti-gang and bullying conference at Lockport High School a success, according to a field intelligence officer from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.
The Greater Niagara Regional Training Conference, which was held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the auditorium, drew diverse groups from therapists from Catholic Charities to BOCE workers from the Livingston County Jail. Canadian law enforcement officers also attended with Lockport and Niagara Falls cops.
“That’s a great turnout for his area,” said officer Kirk Kingsbury of Greater Niagara Regional Gang Training. “To have 100 people, that’s phenomenal.”
The conference, started by the New York Gang Investigators Association in 2006, was co-sponsored by the Lockport City School District and the sheriff’s office. It was designed for law enforcement, social workers and teachers. It is the first time it was held in Niagara County.
There are no reported gangs in Lockport, according to Kingsbury, but there continue to be issues in Niagara Falls.
“Right now gangs are down. They lost a lot of the gang identifiers undefined colors, names,” Kingsbury said. “They are dropping that and becoming a group of criminal crews instead of gangs.”
Lists of designer and clothing companies used as gang identifiers were provided by NYGIA. Their clothing ranges from Allan Iverson to Under Armour. Sports team logos are also used. There are several uses of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Kings logos.
Officer Dave Cudahy of the Niagara Falls Police Department led the discussion of bullying.
“The types of bullying overlap,” he said. “The internet exploded so fast and got so big, it got away from us. Cyber bullying is too easy and too anonymous.”
Miles Patterson of Lockport High School was the non-law enforcement representative for NYIGA. He worked with Principal Frank Movalli and Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley to invite people who work with at-risk youth. He also has knowledge of gangs and bullying.
“It’s all wrapped up in one. There is the social networking, bullying and gangs they’re all tied in,” said Lynn Kennison, who works a the Livingston County Jail for BOCES. “Genesee is kind of out in the country, but we have inmates from all over the area. There are people that come in that have gang affiliations. It’s not just an urban issue and we want to learn more about.”
Holly Ames of Niagara Falls and Cathy Jasinski of North Tonawanda are multi-systemic therapists who work with teenagers for Catholic Charities. MST is an intensive treatment program that focuses on homes and families, schools and teachers, neighborhoods and friends that impact chronic and violent juvenile offenders.
“We get the family involved and school involved trying to increase independence of the child who they can go to and who they can really identify with,” Jasinski said. “It’s been great really, just learning what we can do to contribute and take back to families.”
NYGIA provided a guide for parents and teachers, regarding gangs and what they can do to keep children from joining gangs.
While teachers feel they intervene, students say the opposite, according to Cudahy. “You can’t intervene enough,” he said.
Addressing police and student resource officers, he said, “Don’t underestimate the effect you have on a child. He’s looking at you like you are Superman.”
He told teachers to encourage students to yell, “STOP” when being bullied in class.