By Ray King

The City of Pine Bluff and its Police Department will be teaming up with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Juvenile Court, and Go Forward Pine Bluff in an effort to reduce juvenile gang activity.

A resolution adopted by the city council on Monday said police, the sheriff’s department, and juvenile court have created the Gang Reduction Initiative in Pine Bluff (GRIP) as an anti-gang and anti-violence program.

According to the resolution, research on school consolidation in the city indicated that there is an overwhelming percentage of students who are not reading at grade level and there is a direct correlation between illiteracy, high school drop out rates, and crime and that causes a public health, safety, and welfare issue.

Under the program, the city will set aside up to $200,000 each year from 2021 to 2024 from the 2017 sales tax which can be used by non-profit organizations to create programs designed for youth.

Those programs could include creating a program to increase the reading level of kids 4 to 18, adding tutoring services to after-school programs, matching students with adult mentors, providing care and case management for victims of domestic violence, and similar programs.

Any 501c3 public charity, school, or government agency serving Pine Bluff is eligible to apply for the funds but faith-based organizations and faith-based initiatives are not eligible.