"Operation Tipping Point" Fights Gang Activity In Lincoln

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LINCOLN, Neb.-- For 10 years the Hub has tried to help Lincoln kids graduate high school and find a job.

Nola Derby-Bennett, Executive Director of the organization explains that statistics show that education can help deter children from gangs and that is why they offer such extensive training for jobs.

"We do GED classes at the Hub for young people who have dropped out of school and want to still pursue education. We have staff within public schools who work with young people who are facing some challenges as they are pursuing their educations. Sometimes it's just a matter of providing some additional support within the school building and during the day," said Derby-Bennett.

Bennett says they don't ask kids who come there if they are even in a gang because the center wants to be open to anyone who walks through the doors and needs help.

And she also says the increase in gang activity in the city has them joining forces with other community organizations who have similar goals: keeping Lincoln's youth safe.

Dozens of community organizers came together to meet with Lincoln's Police Department on Wednesday. Their mission: talking about what community organizations can do to keep Lincoln kids safe and on the right track to success.

The Hub is just one of dozens of organizations involved.

Cordara Thompson sees 150 to 200 kids per day at the Boys and Girls Club of Lincoln.

"A lot of the issues, they are just bored. They don't have something that will enrich them and help them grow. They're just hanging out," said Cordara.

Thompson believes city leaders need a community network to better watch out for Lincoln's kids.

To collaborate... have one strong plan that we're all enforcing that will be consistent with the kids," said Thompson.

That's where Operation Tipping Point comes in. The new program will meet once a month to talk about ways adults can keep kids from joining gangs.

Lincoln Police believes this program will help officers since they can't be the eyes and ears everywhere in the city.

Lincoln Police Captain Jon Sundermeir said, "Our role has to be the investigation and suppression of gang activity. We hope to be the force behind the community but once the community gets rolling, we can play a much smaller role."

But for Thompson and the many other community leaders who are involved in this, it is about the large role they play that can make Lincoln a better place.

Thompson said, "A lot of it is these kids feel like no one cares about them. If we can all come together and show them how much we're behind them, they won't have to go the route of gangs."

Lincoln's Police Department said their hope is that these meetings continue for years or until Lincoln's gang community is stamped out.