BROWARD — Washington Park, located on the border between Sistrunk and Sunrise boulevards, has been shadowed with several crime issues and soon will receive positive change in the community. The neighborhood faces challenges with illegal sale and consumption of narcotics, burglaries and overall crime and needs an infusion of   jobs and programs to help youth and  ex-offenders get a positive outlook on life.

This was the lament of Captain Andrew Dunbar and Lt. Shawn Enser of Broward County Sheriff’s Central Broward District Office at the March 17 County Commission as they made a case to get resources to start programs that will divert unemployed and idle people in Washington Park from crime.

Enter Newton Sanson, president and CEO of Opportunities Industrialization Center of South Florida, which is based in Broward County.  Sanson overheard the officers and said “that is exactly why I am here.”

Sanson’s OIC had just received a $1.1 million grant from the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration to fund a YouthBuild initiative, a program that will provide academic enrichment to the youth in the Broward County area.

He said through this fund OIC could address several core issues like crime prevention and leadership development for Washington Park. The program will target youths from 16-24 years old, who have a criminal history, dropped out of high school and/or are unemployed.

Sanon traveled to Washington, D.C. last month on Feb. 27, to meet with members of Congress, U.S. Senators and Gerri Fiala, deputy assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Shortly after he returned, he was contacted about the grant.

“In large part, it was a proposal and good timing,” said Sanon. Sanon has to match the grant with $70,000 in order for it to be used. He has asked District 9 Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness and Workforce One for help to raise that. Some suggested to raise the funds by tapping into the Law Enforcement Trust Funds, which is funded by the sale of contraband used in felony crimes. Also, funds from

Broward foundations like United Way of Broward County and the Salvation Army may be used to assist.

“We want this grant so we’ll be fine,” said Sanon, when asked how long he has to raise the matching funds. Washington Park is one of the areas Sanon wishes to benefit from the  YouthBuild program through mentoring and finding other solutions to help the community get rid of crimes.

“Washington Park   needs attention when it comes to crimes and poverty; this is a plan to help us on these issues,” said Sanon. Dunbar also wants to see mentorship programs in Washington Park. “We want to expose the children to a positive side of their government … get them the skill sets they need with these mentorship programs,” Dunbar said.

Holness expressed his concerned about Washington Park and what needs to be done so the youth as well as the community can improve.  “I believed we must do everything we can to build a better community,” said Holness. “We must address crime and do it where it’s far-reaching, not just locking up criminals but teaching them to be better human beings,” Holness added.