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February 26, 1998     (512) 463-0300

COMMUNITY INTERVENTION PROGRAMS PROVE BENEFICIAL IN SUN CITY

EL PASO - Each day, approximately 3000 students drop out of school. As of January 1998, there were over 5,500 youth and adult gang members involved with the 330 youth street gangs in El Paso alone. Juvenile crime and gang-related violence and arrests are increasing at a rapid rate and school drop-out rates are soaring. On Wednesday, February 25, Texas senators learned of two unique programs present in El Paso schools that are combating these staggering statistics.

"Communities in Schools", or CIS, whose motto is "helping kids to help themselves", is an organization that provides educational and counseling services to troubled teens. As part of the group's mission statement, CIS fights gang, violence, and drug tendencies by providing students with personal one-on-one relationships and providing safe places to learn. The program also helps students develop marketable tools that will make them useful to the community when they graduate. The program is present on 57 campuses in four districts in the El Paso area.

Some of the techniques that have made CIS so successful is supportive guidance and academic enhancement, parental involvement, enrichment activities, drug and alcohol prevention programs, employment assistance and training as well as health services.

Another program making real differences in the El Paso community is "Back on Track", a community-based partnership that focuses on intensive gang intervention and prevention. "Back on Track" intends to reduce criminal activity by educating youth on the contributing factors that lead them to rule breaking behaviors. According to its mission statement, the program believes that in order to prevent violence, more must be done than rescuing individual children from the dysfunctional environments in which they live. "We must also work to change those environments."

The program has on staff several actual gang members such as Eddie Hernandez who was not only a member of an active street gang, but was also a leader of one of the most violent prison gangs in New Mexico and Texas. Hernandez now serves as a gang intervention and prevention specialist helping teens at risk with his personal experience and knowledge.

LEGISLATORS VISIT "THIRSTY" CITY

EL PASO - The Select Interim Committee on Water Resources Development and Management met in El Paso on Thursday, February 26, to discuss the critical issue of water conservation, shortage, and drought. The public hearing consisted of state agency personnel testimony on the implementation of Senate Bill 1, legislation passed last session that laid out a statewide water plan.

The committee is co-chaired by Representative Ron Lewis and Senator J.E. "Buster" Brown (Lake Jackson). Members include Representatives Robert Cook, David Counts, Robert Puente, and Gary Walker and Senators Carlos F. Truan (Corpus Christi), Ken Armbrister (Victoria), Eddie Lucio (Brownsville), and Jeff Wentworth (San Antonio). Other state legislators present included Senator Jon Lindsay of Houston, Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, Representative Norma Chavez of El Paso, and Representative Pat Haggerty of El Paso.

Representatives from both the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission stated that implementation for SB 1 is "ahead of schedule and under budget". These two agencies are working hard to put the bill's specifications into action by enforcing the rules, distinguishing the regions, and setting up regional planning groups.

However, several water supply problems still lurk in the state. According to testimony provided by the El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board, population growth, colonias, drought issues, and competing regional demands for water resources persist to plague the region. Testimony given provided the members with many ideas on how to solve these problems.

SENATE INVESTIGATION INTO GANG VIOLENCE ISSUES CONTINUES

EL PASO - On Thursday, February 26, members of the Senate Interim Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice met in public hearing at the University of Texas at El Paso. The committee is traveling around the state to hold public meetings in order to hear the concerns of the citizens of the state regarding the issue of gangs in the communities.

Chairing the committee is Senator Royce West of Dallas and members include Senators Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Chris Harris of Arlington, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, Jon Lindsay of Houston, and Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth.

Providing testimony were representatives from the El Paso Mayor's Office, El Paso Commissioner's Court, El Paso City Council, El Paso District and County Attorney's Office, El Paso Juvenile Probation Department, El Paso Community Youth Development Project, and various local area youth intervention and prevention providers. Also testifying were officials from state, federal, county and city law enforcement centers.

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