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Newton Street Los Angeles Police Department: Introducing programs to keep children off the streets and away from crime

Chain link fence | Photo credit: Stephanie Kayser | Taken off of Central Avenue; displays a torn up fence with graffiti and a house in the background

Police Office | Photo Credit: Stephanie Kayser | This is the police department in charge of South L.A. right off of Central Avenue

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Los Angeles Police Station on Central | This is the police station that covers the South L.A. area.

Newton Street Cadet Program | LEFT: The cadet are practicing formations, drills, and marching.

Cadets Marching | MIDDLE: Video of cadets practing marching.

Squad car | RIGHT: This is the 13th division of 21 in the South L.A. area.
Cadets Program
A look inside the weekly Cadet meetings on Tuesday evening.
Class Work Headline
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Class Work Headline
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By Stephanie Kayser

SOUTH L.A. -- Is home to more than 120 recognized gangs in a 10 square mile radius. With this the Newton Street Los Angeles Police Department on Central Avenue is working harder than ever to promote mentoring programs to keep children off the streets and safe away from criminal activity.

The station has had outreach programs for years however they are just now being reinvented into something that is trying to change the community.

The Explore program was renamed the Cadet program two years ago and Newton Street has the largest within the 21 divisions in the South L.A. area having around 100 teenagers enrolled. The station just reintroduced its Police Athletic League, or P.A.L. program to try to target younger children and keep them off the streets in hope that they will avoid crime in the future and possibly enter the Cadet program.

Both programs are nonprofit but the officers who run the programs are paid to be involved as well as find funds and sponsors for the program and some of the events that are put on.


Sitting in the room, young teenagers file in and stand behind one of five rows of tables, hands behind their backs and a sense of pride and responsibility seen in their demeanor and expression.

The teenagers stand quietly waiting for their weekly Tuesday evening meeting to starts. As soon as Officer Morales walks in the teenagers greet her in a militarized but warm fashion.

The meeting is run by two 18-year-olds who call order and start the meeting by reciting the pledge of alliance.

The program is for children ages 13 to 21 and is geared towards teenagers who might want to go into law enforcement and that have a 2.0 GPA average. The teenagers then enroll in a training program, which is 18 consecutive Saturdays throughout the year. After graduation, the teenagers are considered part of the Cadets program, which meets every Tuesday.

After meeting and talking about upcoming events, the cadets, by rank and platoon, file out of the room and practice drills and marching.

The Cadet program instills confidence and a sense of responsibility in the kids. They are able to work hand in hand with the officers and create a bond. They also learn how to reports, work the front desk, learn basic radio and penal codes, shadow a detective, go on ridealongs, and go to court to see how a case is filed.

It also presents a lot of opportunity, with weekly events in community service and trips around Southern California. These community events include posting up and the L.A. marathon and helping with traffic control to working community fairs where the teenagers pass out information pamphlets. The teenagers are also able to take fun trips around the area. This year they went white water rafting and zipling.

“In the 80’s I was part of the program,” said Officer Morales, in charge of the Cadet program. “And I thank everything to the program. I got to travel and I go to see Hawaii, I got to see Cancun, and Yosemite; places that I probably never would have seen without the program.”

“The kids you can’t get them out of the program. They absolutely love it,” Officer Morales told me with a laugh.

This seems to be the tread with many employees at the station; many of them grew up around the station or were part of the Cadet or P.A.L. program growing up.

“You couldn’t get me to leave,” said Gerardo Gomez. “I was part of the [now Cadet] program until I was 22-years-old.”


With the success of the Cadet program, a need for a program that kept younger children off the street and feed into the Cadet program was needed as well. This is where the Police Athletic League, otherwise known as P.A.L. came into play. P.A.L. is a youth crime prevention program that uses recreational activities and education as a way to bond young people and police officers together.

The program is open to children ages 8 to 17 with the goal to keep children not only off the streets and safe before their parents return from work but also try to get them moving in a positive direction. Kids from the community come to learn how to march, how to respect people, discipline, play sports, and just keep them involved in the community and off of the streets.

“I’ve had parents approach me asking if they could even bring their six year old,” said Officer Triana, one of the officers in charge of the P.A.L. program. “I don’t turn anybody away.”

From 6:30 to 8:00 P.M. on Wednesday nights, all that can be heard from the Center for Advanced Learned parking lot, right across from the police station, is laughter and panting as kids play board games, football, basketball, jump rope, and other recreational games.

P.A.L. is geared towards kids who are more at risk and the program is set up to try to keep them busy and off the streets at night. Officer Morales tells me that the program has been multiplying ever since it started.

Sporting events, tutoring lessons, and even boxing three times a week with a trainer are weekly activities in the program. The station is also currently looking to hold more programs and trying to take on any activity that the children would want to do.

“A few of the officers know about painting so we are trying to put together an art class to start in January and are thinking of holding a zumba class to keep the pre-teens interested as well. If a child wants a certain program and activity we want to be able to provide that” said Officer Triana.

Gangs start to recruit people as young as 11 or 12 year old so this program was put in place to give children in the area a place to go and somewhere to make positive decisions.

“My cousin was a gang member, he lived right across from me,” Henry Alvarado told me. “And it was a challenge for me, I was scarred literally for my life because I didn’t want to join.”

The station has no facility to hold its events in besides its community room. Officers in charge of the programs are currently pushing for a vacant building that someone could lend to them or lease for free for a certain number of years so that they don’t run out of space for the children.

School Play Field | LEFT: Every Wednesday night P.A.L. has free recreational time at the Center for Advanced Learning across from the police station.

P.A.L. students | MIDDLE: The kids are standing in a circle stretching before playing activities.

Toys | RIGHT: The officers bring over bags full of balls, jump ropes, and board games for the children to play during their free time.