A new grant will fund a gang prevention curriculum and the development of a gang graffiti removal program, Jackson County officials said.
The $31,379 Juvenile Accountability Block Grant, awarded by the Oregon Youth Development Council, will provide money to support gang intervention lessons from the Phoenix New Freedom Gang Intervention Curriculum and a half-time supervisor who will oversee graffiti removal around Jackson County.
"This is the first true gang curriculum that I've found that is evidence-based and really focuses on the gang element," said Joe Ferguson, deputy director for Jackson County Juvenile Justice Services.
The classroom materials address peer pressure, risk factors of joining a gang, the reasons youths feel the need to join, critical problem-solving, and safer alternatives to the gang lifestyle.
"Those are kind of the core pieces," Ferguson said.
Program officials said the graffiti removal will expand an existing agreement they have with Medford police. Youth in the juvenile justice system needing community service hours already do graffiti cleanup within the Medford city limits.
"We're going to hit the more outlying areas," Ferguson said, adding that White City will be a key target for graffiti removal.
The Jackson County Gang Task Force heads up the current eradication program. Phil Ortega, who serves on the task force and also is the safe schools coordinator for the Eagle Point School District, said the group meets regularly to collaborate about the program.
"We cross the graffiti taggers to see if we see any trends," Ortega said. "We identify ways of removing it. We kind of just help each other out."
Medford police Sgt. Ben Lytle said there is a need to expand the program and hit the graffiti sites. City-supervised crews already have done cleanup jobs outside Medford, including Phoenix and beneath several Interstate 5 overpasses.
"You see graffiti wherever you go, and expanding that is certainly going to help," Lytle said.
In 2012, Medford police responded to 609 incidents of graffiti, six of which were in Phoenix, according to Medford police data. They have responded to 150 incidents so far this year.
The grant funds also will be used to purchase an enclosed utility trailer to carry graffiti removal equipment.
Youths involved in the program will meet three times a week, twice in the classroom and once during graffiti-removal outings. All together, 12 youths will go through the program, staggered in groups of four that will complete the program in three four-month sessions.
The grant provides funding through April 1, 2014.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved the grant at its Wednesday public meeting.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email email@example.com.