VISTA — The San Diego Sheriff’s Vista Patrol Station recently partnered with children to participate in the G.R.E.A.T., or Gang Resistance Education and Training, program. G.R.E.A.T. is a school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed classroom curriculum initiated in 1991. With prevention as its primary objective, the program is intended as an immunization against delinquency, youth violence and gang membership.
“The program teaches students valuable lessons about a topic not normally talked about in class — gangs,” Vista Sheriff’s Captain Tim Curran said. “Our goal is to empower students to realize their full potential so they may lead fulfilling lives as responsible citizens and future leaders. The G.R.E.A.T program helps build a strong foundation to support that mission.” When the students from Maryland Elementary School graduated from the G.R.E.A.T. program and hung the “thank you” banner in front of the school for everyone to see, the Vista Sheriff’s unit collectively said, “This is what makes it all worth it!”
The goal of the G.R.E.A.T. Program is to help youth develop positive life skills that will help them avoid gang involvement and violent behavior. G.R.E.A.T. uses a communitywide approach to combat the risk factors associated with youth involvement in gang-related behaviors. The curricula were developed through the collaborative efforts of experienced law enforcement officers and specialists in criminology, sociology, psychology, education, health, and curriculum design, and are designed to reinforce each other. The lessons are interactive and designed to allow students to practice positive behaviors.
Currently, the Vista Sheriff’s Station is the only agency teaching the program in San Diego County. The Vista Station has 20 trained deputies and one sergeant who work with the children; the primary instructors are members of the Vista Gang Enforcement Team. G.R.E.A.T. is taught in eight elementary schools and two middle schools in Vista at no cost to the district. In Vista, all expenses, including overtime, are covered by a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant.
This is the second year of instruction in Vista and the program has reached approximately 2,200 students.