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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California dedicates significant resources to collaborating with the community to prevent crime, enhance public safety, and improve the quality of life. United States Attorney Adam Braverman feels strongly that our office must continually connect with stakeholders to better understand and respond to community needs. Our prosecutors and engagement team members often work directly with local police officers, agency officials, residents, schools, nonprofit organizations, and others to develop comprehensive solutions to emerging public safety problems. The office is committed to taking on leadership roles in prevention organizations, building bonds of trust in the community, investing time in mentoring programs, and enhancing public safety through increased awareness and education.
Youth Engagement Programs
The USAO has implemented several successful youth engagement programs to foster positive decision-making and to deter youth from criminal behavior. Through these programs, students get a close-up look at the criminal justice system and come away with a better understanding of the consequences of engaging in drugs, gangs, and gun violence. In addition to deterring youth from criminal activity, students are exposed to different career paths, role models and future opportunities. Prosecutors and engagement specialists host a variety of programs and events that have been specifically developed for this target audience.
Legal Enrichment and Decision Making Program (Project L.E.A.D)
Project LEAD is an initiative that integrates attorneys, support staff, law enforcement and the San Diego City Attorney’s Office with public schools to provide an eight-week instructional program. The curriculum of Project LEAD teaches fifth grade students that the choices they make today can affect their lives forever. The program also serves as an informal mentoring program in which students are guided by volunteer instructors with government, law enforcement, criminal justice, and/or military backgrounds. These volunteer instructors encourage the students to explore their dreams and aim high when setting their goals. Currently, Project LEAD has reached more than 1,000 students at Cesar Chavez Elementary, Balboa Elementary, Emerson/Bandini Elementary, Freese Elementary, Johnson Elementary, Logan K-8, Porter Elementary, Sherman Elementary, St. Rita’s Elementary, Kimbrough Elementary and Valencia Park Elementary.
Legal Enrichment and Decision Making Program (Project L.E.A.D) for 7th Grade
The seventh grade Project LEAD Program was launched in Spring 2017 to reach middle school students who find themselves at a crossroads when making life choices. The program emphasizes that decisions made by seventh graders today can have a real impact on their futures. The seventh grade curriculum focuses on making good choices, refusal skills, goal setting and perseverance. In the last year, the Project LEAD 7th grade program has reached more than 100 students.
Success Agents… Together We Succeed!
Success Agents is an interagency partnership that includes the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, the DA’s Gang Unit and Juvenile Justice Division, the San Diego Police Department, Star Pal, the San Diego Unified School District, and San Diego County’s Dept. of Health and Human Services. The Success Agents Program is committed to helping vulnerable elementary school kids thrive, both in and outside of school. One important aspect of Success Agents is a weekly afternoon session designed to foster mentoring relationships, enhance literacy, resilience, self-esteem and discipline, and expand the horizons of these youth. Each student is paired with both a teacher mentor and law-enforcement mentor to provide the one-on-one support needed for these students to stay on track and realize their dreams. A unique attribute of Success Agents is the program’s long term commitment: students participating in the program will be followed from fourth grade to eighth grade to ensure they receive the support and guidance need to succeed.
Careers in Law
Throughout the year, our office hosts job shadowing events and participates in career fairs. These events expose students to a variety of exciting jobs and careers in law enforcement. Some recent events include Reality Changers Law Week job shadowing event, an “AIM for Law” tour and panel presentation for students interested in pursuing a legal career, a presentation to SDSU’s Criminal Justice Student Association, numerous mock trial activities, career fairs at Balboa Elementary, O’Farrell Charter School, and Crawford High School.
Reading Across America
Each year AUSAs and staff join the U.S. District Court personnel by collaborating with schools to help motivate and inspire students to read regularly. Research reflects a direct connection between lack of literacy skills and the school to prison pipeline.
Drug Mule Program
Our office partners with Homeland Security Investigations and the Customs and Border Enforcement to educate young people about the lifelong consequences faced by drug mules. The federal prevention team presents one-hour sessions to high schools and colleges.
Bullying is an issue that continues to affect the youth in our community. The USAO has collaborated with local schools to take a stand against bullying. In 2012, the District launched an Anti-bullying Essay Contest to raise awareness about the effects of bullying. The contest provided students the opportunity to share their personal stories and empowered students to stand up against bullying. A video version of the students’ stories is available in both English and Spanish. Prosecutors and outreach specialists also participate in the annual ‘Don’t be a Bully’ conference by providing workshops to both students and parents about bullying and human trafficking.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMS
Combating the Opioid Epidemic
The USAO holds a leadership role on the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force (PDATF), a multi-disciplinary group of more than 100 stakeholders who meet quarterly to address safe disposal, prevention, and treatment issues. The PDATF also issues an annual report card tracking the opiate and Rx misuse problem in San Diego. (link to PDATF website) The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently collaborated with PDATF, DEA, the California Department of Public Health, the California Health Care Foundation, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program to host a statewide Opiate Summit. The summit brought together officials throughout the state to discuss best practices and develop an action plan covering law enforcement, community engagement, treatment, safe disposal and prevention.
RX Prevention Campaign
The office partnered with Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego and Hope2gether to raise awareness of the dangers posed by RX drug misuse. This partnership reached out to hundreds of high school students to discuss the ongoing opiate crisis and risks to youth. The high school students were invited to participate in an opiate awareness contest to help educate the community of the issues presented by the misuse of prescription drugs.
Do Something about Meth! Initiative
Playwrights Project and SAY San Diego partnered with our office on a moving play that harnesses the power of live theatre to tell the stories of San Diego methamphetamine users. The partners interviewed adult and juvenile inmates and dozens of people who suffer from meth-related Substance Use Disorder, from a variety of walks of life. Many people whose lives spiraled into chaos due to methamphetamine use were grateful to have the opportunity to share their compelling stories. These stories were ultimately expressed in composite form in “Other People’s Kids,” a short but powerful one-act play by Mabelle Reynoso that seeks to inform, educate, and prevent the ravages of methamphetamine addiction.
Outreach to Diverse Communities
Our office has made a concerted effort to collaborate with a number of diverse communities in San Diego. During the past few years, we have provided educational workshops, visited local mosques and participated in many cross-cultural events, such as the Pacific Institute Friendship dinner, Ramadan Iftar dinners with law enforcement, the Anti-Defamation League Nation of Immigrants Seder, and neighborhood Eid festivals. In addition, we worked with community members to create the Somali Community/Law Enforcement Community Roundtable to actively engage with and respond to the concerns of San Diego’s growing Somali Community.
Know your Rights Forums
The USAO is a longstanding participant in ACLU’s Constitution Day program. Each September, we celebrate our nation’s constitution by sending prosecutors to local middle and high schools to teach students about the Bill of Rights. Our office has also hosted numerous forums that are designed to improve individual communities’ understanding of their constitutional rights, including recent sessions in the Somali Community and at San Diego State University. During these forums, we emphasize the importance of a full understanding of the Bill of Rights, DOJ’s support for strong community policing policies, and the agency’s formal and informal complaint mechanisms.
Our office continually partners with our U.S. District Court, helping thousands of students and community members who tour the Court to learn more about the legal system. At these events, experienced prosecutors guide students through mock trials and provide them the opportunity to experience firsthand how our legal system works.
Each year the USAO along with SAY San Diego, SDPD, and other community partners, sponsor the Unity Games, a friendly, competitive single-elimination softball tournament between law enforcement and community members. This event, in addition to creating stronger relationships between law enforcement and the community, offers something for every member of the community, including resource tables, food, music and activities for the youth.
Community Meetings and Events
Our leadership team and line prosecutors attend numerous community meetings and events throughout the District each month. During these meetings we address the issues affecting the community, such as gang violence, drug prevention and sex trafficking. In an effort to improve transparency in the criminal justice system, prosecutors and senior leaders educate the community about our office and the inner workings of the criminal justice system.
The office offers presentations on a variety of topics. If you would like someone from the USAO to speak to your group or a class of students on a criminal justice–related topic, please reach out to Director of Community Outreach Cindy Cipriani at (619) 546-9608. Speakers are available to deliver presentations on, among other topics, the following subjects: