Richmond, California, is a predominately low-income city across the bay from San Francisco. In some of its hard-pressed neighborhoods, children are at high risk of gang involvement, drug abuse, and violence and teen pregnancy. But instead of relying only on law enforcement agencies to keep children safe, the people of Richmond have taken matters into their own hands. Community agencies and schools are working together to break the cycle of poverty and violence.
“Catching Them Early” profiles the extraordinary efforts of Richmond’s Lincoln Elementary School to ensure a bright future for its children.
Ninety-nine percent of the kids attending Lincoln qualify for federal meal subsidies; many have family members in a gang. So the school makes special efforts, including the hiring of outreach workers, to provide the kind of support kids need to stay in class and do well.
Teenagers in Richmond find support at Families Unites, an unusual community health organization that has made crime prevention part of its mission. Families Unites and its caseworkers like outreach worker Gonzalo Rucobo, who was himself once a gang member, help kids stay out of gangs and avoid conflicts that can lead to violence.
“Catching Them Early” observes one teenager’s struggle to remove himself from gang violence without alienating his old friends. “Two of my friends,” he says, “have got shot down, and they were not banging’ anymore.
I’m just trying to stay out of trouble. I don’t say I’m lucky until probably ten years from now. You never know who’s going to come up behind you.”
“Catching Them Early” also explores how Richmond is responding to the growing tendency of teenage girls to become involved in violence and crime. Richmond targets teen mothers, providing them with training in child rearing and help in anticipating the difficulties they will encounter, and makes a special effort through programs like Head Start to make sure that young children get the support they need to become successful students.
“Richmond is inspiring,” says series writer/producer Roger Grief, “because it’s a community under pressure that is challenging its youth crime problem without relying solely on cops, courts, and corrections.
In Richmond, it’s those who work with the babies and mothers, the pre-teens and the teens at risk who are the real heroes.”
In Search of Law and Order: Reclaiming America’s Kids brings viewers into close contact with a diverse mix of people from across the political and socioeconomic spectrum-from professionals working within the system to young offenders, their victims and ordinary citizens who simply want to reclaim their neighborhoods and their children.