In his continuing effort to reduce and prevent crime among Rockland County's younger population, District Attorney Thomas Zugibe announced the launch of the Youth and Police Initiative (YPI) in late 2008. YPI is a training program created by the Massachusetts-based North American Family Institute to enhance police officers and prosecutors understanding of the beliefs, values, and experiences of local youth, while ensuring that youth develop a genuine regard for the challenges that police officers face on the job.
Within this context, YPI provides structured dialogue, team building and role playing scenarios that allow all participants - youth, educators, police and prosecutors - to tackle the real and hard issues of crime prevention and community policing. YPI is an opportunity for Rockland County's police departments to increase their visibility in their communities and to bring about positive changes in their relationships with local at-risk youth. The YPI program curriculum has been developed to produce positive results for a variety of law enforcement officials, including seasoned police officers and Academy trainees. Each police group interacts with specially selected and trained at-risk youth from high crime neighborhoods. Each and every YPI program is adapted to fit the specific needs of the community being served.
Program objectives of Rockland County's Youth and Police Initiative:
- Enhance officers' community policing skills
- Strengthen prosecutors' knowledge of the community
- Build long-term positive relationships between local police, prosecutors, and Rockland County's at-risk youth
- Create links to positive, pro-social community resources
- Create possibilities for mentorship
- Facilitate ways for youth to learn about career paths in Public Safety
- Build upon initial trainings with continuing, planned activities
The Zugibe Administration partnered with the Haverstraw Police Department and the North Rockland Central School District to successfully implement YPI in 2009. During the course of several weeks, more than two dozen teens met, talked and bonded with several members of the Haverstraw Police Department. Through structured conversation and trust-building activities, both students and law enforcement officers were able to tear down stereotypes, develop mutual respect and spark long-term relationships.
Rockland County's Youth and Police Initiative moved to the Nyack Public Schools in early 2010.
YPI has achieved great success in the City of White Plains, where the program became a critical component of the police department's violence reduction strategy. The initiative was credited with helping to build respect and trust between police officers assigned to specific neighborhoods and the youth who live or visit there.
The Zugibe Administration plans to expand YPI to all Rockland County school districts.