To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Today’s youth experience and witness many forms of violence, from bullying in schools to cyber-bullying. They can also be subjected to gang-related violence and the effects of harmful decisions related to drugs. Violence is in our community and we are not immune to these forms of it. Law enforcement officers in schools can help prevent violent behavior, but long-term solutions require education. Among the local agencies that are working to teach our youth about the consequences of their choices is the Pittsfield Police Department (PPD).
As this is the "back-to-school" time of year, and our youth are re-entering settings in which they may be exposed to violence, Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice (BCP&J) is sponsoring a talk by Michael Ortega, PPD Safety Officer, entitled "Youth Violence In Schools/Community and a Police Role in its Prevention." The talk will be given at the Unitarian/Universalist Church, 175 Wendell Ave. in Pittsfield at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12. It is free and open to the public. BCP&J especially encourages parents, students, teachers and school administrators to attend.
A 27-year veteran of the PPD, Officer Ortega’s activities include instructing elementary and middle school students on violence prevention techniques and gang involvement, plus education with regard to drug use, primarily through two major programs: D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training). Both programs are research-based and aim to teach positive life skills, as well as the consequences of involvement with both gangs and drugs.
This presentation will be the third in a series of programs on "Reducing Violence in Berkshire County," a series inspired by the Gathering of the same name that was organized by BCP&J and held at Berkshire Community College last February. A panel of 10 participants, from a variety of agencies, including Officer Ortega, shared their unique approaches to the problem at that event.
As the safety and health of our young people is a broad-based concern, BCP&J encourages attendance at this unusual opportunity to have creative interaction with one who is on the front line in the effort to prevent and end youth violence and related behavior.
To learn more about BCP&J, visit http://bcpj.org/.
BRIAN J. TRAUTMAN
The writer is an instructor of peace and world order studies at Berkshire Community College and a member of Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice.