Using the themes of West Side Story, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office) and the Seattle Police Foundation will soon be offering the West Side Story Project (WSSP) Toolkit to address youth violence and youth–police relations. This resource provides an opportunity for law enforcement to partner with local theatre, schools, youth-based organizations, and community groups to develop new approaches to gang prevention, youth–police relations, and cultural conflict.
Piloted in Seattle, WA, White Plains, NY, and Los Angeles, CA, the WSSP offers the chance for middle and high school students to participate in activities with law enforcement groups to discuss their perceptions of each other and cultural differences among their peers. Simultaneously, it introduces youth, particularly those considered at-risk, to a world far away from their everyday lives—the experience of live musical theatre and the opportunity to create their own art and drama based on themes from West Side Story.
The project also creates an opportunity for a public forum to focus on issues that affect many communities, such as: juvenile justice reform, new immigrants and their relationships with police, and local efforts to address youth and gang violence.
The West Side Story Project Toolkit is a set of 5 booklets, a CD, and a DVD that provides directions, suggestions, and examples to demonstrate how police, theatre, youth organizations, and others can work together to use creative strategies to reduce conflict, solve problems, and build relationships.
The West Side Story Project Toolkit can be replicated in part or in its entirety, depending on the interests, needs, and resources of each community. To be the first to know when the Toolkit is available, consider signing up to receive updates of new resources from the COPS Office at: www.cops.usdoj.gov.
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