Financial Partners CU Aims To Bolster Local-Anti Gang Efforts

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Gang activity dates back decades in this suburb of Los Angeles, and fighting back against such criminal behavior is one reason why Financial Partners CU has donated $1,000 to an anti-gang program.

Gangs Out Of Downey, a program dedicated to combating gang activity in the community, received a "Points of Light" award from former President George H.W. Bush in 2002. It is supported by the city's administrators, police department and school district.

The organization will use the donation to support Downey Police stationed at local high schools, as well as gang diversionary programs, such as after school and summer sports programs, camping opportunities for troubled children and student/parent counseling.

Orlandus Waters, senior VP-government and community relations for the $623-million, 58,000-member FPCU, told The Credit Union Journal gangs have been in Downey since the 1940s. "It has become generational. They are here, and they are proliferating, but the community has a lot of zeal about keeping them out of the schools," he said.

Waters said the credit union's participation in the Gangs Out Of Downey program is similar to the sociological theory of the broken window, which appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly: if a building has a few broken windows and they are not repaired, the tendency of vandals is to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps light fires or become squatters inside.

"The approach we've taken is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We have participated in the program for five or six years. We work with the school district providing grants for new lighting in the high school, as well as school counseling programs for kids who continue to Cerritos College."

Waters said part of FPCU's corporate mission is to help kids and the communities it serves, including Orange County and most Los Angeles County cities.

"Given the number and proliferation of gangs in Los Angeles, tied with the number of gangs here in Downey, we felt this was a great program to participate in," he said. "It acts as a deterrent."

Financial Partners CU's next fundraiser for Gangs Out Of Downey is a bid to create a one-mile circle of wristbands in the main branch, Waters said. Members will donate $1 for each wristband, which will be a link in the chain. The fundraiser will take place in mid-May.

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