The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has partnered with the Georgia Alliance for School Resource Officers and Educators, the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, and the Georgia Gang Investigators Association last week to provide an intensive law enforcement training, “G.R.E.A.T.” (Gang Resistance Education and Training), for more than 40 police officers from school systems in the Northern District of Georgia.
G.R.E.A.T. is an evidence-based gang and violence prevention program built around school-centered, law enforcement officer-instructed classroom curricula. Since its inception, G.R.E.A.T. has been used to train thousands of sworn officers from around the United States as certified G.R.E.A.T. instructors.
The program is designed to prevent and reduce delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership – particularly for children during those formative years when the threat of introduction into gangs is most acute. The program also seeks to help children develop a more positive relationship with law enforcement and to offer students opportunities to model and practice life skills and attitudes needed to treat others with respect and empathy, make better choices, and set positive and achievable goals.
“Many of law enforcement’s best work daily in our schools to keep our children safe while they learn. We are excited to facilitate this training, which will boost the ability of school resource officers to better connect with students in a positive way,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Our goal is to successfully divert children from the destructive life of crime that gang activity fosters. G.R.E.A.T. offers real-time skills training aimed at preparing officers for interactions with students who may face decisions regarding gang-affiliation, frequently by force. This training enables our office to expand our multi-faceted approach to stemming youth violence, youth incarceration and gang recruitment, providing an excellent addition to our annual summer youth violence intervention programs.”
“The voices of gangs are very loud in our kids’ ears. They are robbing them of their opportunity for success. Our voices must be louder! Thanks to the U.S. Attorney, GASROE, GPSTC, and G.R.E.A.T., we can provide our kids with tools to help resist gangs,” said Ronald S. Applin Sr., Chief of Police, Executive Director of Safety, Atlanta Public Schools Police.
“It was an honor to work with the G.R.E.A.T. organization to host this gang intervention training with School Resource Officers (SRO) throughout the Northern District of Georgia. This training is another way to enhance our SROs skills and expertise in protecting our youth from gangs. Furthermore, we are grateful to have strong partnerships with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Georgia Alliance for School Resource Officers and Educators, and Georgia Gang Investigators Association to bring trainings such as these to support our SROs in building strong relationships with our youth,” said Chris Wigginton, Executive Director, Georgia Public Safety Training Center.
The training arrived just in time for the start of the 2023-2024 school term. Determined to help keep children in the Northern District of Georgia safe in schools and out of gangs, over 40 school resource officers in metro-Atlanta agreed to participate in this week-long, intensive program. These officers, specifically chosen by their respective agencies, serve at over 70 local schools that enroll over 26,000 students. Several of the officers in attendance remarked on the critical need for law enforcement officers to hone skills in connecting with school children and gaining their trust – a central aim of the G.R.E.A.T. training curricula.
The training took place July 17- 21, 2023, at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, and was presented by the Institute for Intergovernmental Research, a highly experienced team of professionals from around the country with extensive experience in gang prevention and intervention.
This training is also part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.