Girl Scouts Exemplify LAPD Outreach to Public Housing

On a Friday evening in Ramona Gardens, the public housing development, a group of mothers watched their daughters in matching green T-shirts.

Girl Scouts.

It was an opportunity the mothers never encountered when they were growing up, and now welcome for their children.

"A mi me gusta," said mother of two Celia Ortega. "I like that they're in this because they learn different things and learn how important it is to help the community."

Ortega is grateful to the woman nearby, Mishell Harvey-Dixon, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm who does not live in Ramona Gardens, but works here.

She's a cop.


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Working with LAPD colleagues, Officer Harvey-Dixon founded a new Girl Scouts troop with four program levels, from Daisies to Cadettes, as part of a larger outreach known as the Community Safety Program.

The program is sponsored by the LAPD and the Housing Authority, which manages the city's public housing developments. In areas of poverty, the cost of uniforms and patches can be a deterrent
to launching a troop without a sponsor.

No question the girls enjoy scouting. So far they've made field trips to the California Science Center and to UCLA for a women's gymnatics meet, not to mention decorating floats for the Rose Parade.

"I wanted to get involved in more things," said Ortega's 13-year-old daughter, Jennifer.

Officers Harvey-Dixon has a new fan club.

"She makes it exciting," said Jennifer's sister Joselyn, 8.

The LAPD benefits as well through the bonds that are forged.

"Once the parents knew that the girls liked and trusted me, they jumped right on board," said Harvey-Dixon.

Ramona Gardens is the fourth Public Housing Development where Girl Scout troops have sprouted from the CSP since it was launched in the fall of 2011.

The first three came in the South LA community of Watts, at schools that serve children from Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts, and Jordan Downs.

Grape Street Elementary got the first troop, with teachers serving as initial leaders, and Principal Jera Turner sees immediate dividends and long-term promise.

Near another public housing development in Watts, Gonzaque Village, USC student volunteers launched more girl scout troops at Compton Ave Elementary School.

Girl Scout troops are only one aspect of the Safety Program, which also targets programs for boys, adults, and seniors.

"I think our first priority was to be able to build the trust of the residents," said Sgt. Emada Tingirides, CSP coordinator.

In carrying out the program in Watts, Tingirides finds herself working closely with the longtime commander of Southeast Station, Capt. Phil Tingirides, who happens to be her husband and shares her passion. 

Helping children showed the community the program's commitment.  "Because everyone wants something good for their kids," observed Capt. Tingirides.

He believes CSP deserves much of the credit for the continued drop in violent crime rates in Southeast.

The number of homicides during the first three months of the year has dropped from 15 in 2013 to six this year, Capt. Tingirides said.

Since, 2006, the number of shooting victims aged 10-19 has dropped more than 60 percent, he said.

"You start with kids," said Principal Turner, "and you can change the world."

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