Many of you probably remember my column last year outlining a new program designed to offer alternatives to some of the at-risk youth in Dallas. The first year for “Better Kids. Better Dallas.” was both monumental and mind-boggling.

The following is an abbreviated annual report of this first year’s effort. I share it with you with great pride and tremendous appreciation because many in Lake Highlands have contributed to help make this program successful.

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One year ago, “Better Kids. Better Dallas.” was proudly unveiled to the citizens of Dallas. With a $1 million gift from his foundation, Dr. Bob Smith challenged the citizens of Dallas to match his generosity and “Give a kid a chance. Give a dollar.”

Under the leadership of Council member Donna Halstead and Dallas Police Chief Ben Click, “Better Kids. Better Dallas. “ was created to support existing crime prevention programs, to create new efforts to reduce crime in our communities and to offer encouragement to the youth of Dallas to stay in school and out of crime.

The program is administered by the Greater Dallas Crime Commission, a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt corporation.

Matching funds: To date “Better Kids. Better Dallas.” has received contributions, pledges and in-kind donations in excess of $400,000.

Youthwatch Hotline: Administered by Crime Stoppers, this effort was announced on June 1, 1995. By calling 942-7777, a young person can anonymously report crimes related to alcohol, drugs, weapons and gang activity. To date, four arrests have been made and 34 other investigations are underway as a result of information provided through this hotline.

The Scholastic Superstar Incentive program: During the spring semester of 1995, a total of 1,072 students in 13 schools signed contracts with police officers pledging to improve their grades, their behavior and their attendance in school.

Of these students, 779 fulfilled their contracts and received awards from Dallas police officers. During the fall semester of 1995, 25 schools in the City will participate in this program, and we estimate that approximately 1,000 students will sign contracts during each six-week period.

Neighborhood Crime Watch: Since January 1995, 48 neighborhoods in the City has received grants to assist in the organization of crime watch groups in their communities. The grants are available to pay for voice mail, crime alert signs, neighborhood crime watch signs and supplies for newsletters.

A total of $17,101.25 has been invested in this very effective crime fighting program, and the initial results are extremely encouraging. The first of the crime watch grants awarded in January has assisted a community in reducing neighborhood crime by 20 percent in a six-month period.

Dallas Police Athletic League: With funding from “Better Kids, Better Dallas.”, P.A.L. has purchased the necessary equipment and established a karate program. The karate team has participated in eight tournaments throughout the state and has won a total of 104 individual and team trophies and is considered one of the most competitive teams in the state of Texas.

Police Explorer Posts: Funds have been provided to purchase uniforms for disadvantaged youth, certificates of completion for the Explorer academy and rank collar insignia for uniforms. We currently have nine posts active in the City.

Texas Cities Action Plan (TCAP): TCAP has initiated the operation of computer bulletin board to provide crime prevention information to citizens throughout Dallas. The Resource Center is an integral part of the Community Policing Support Unit located in Downtown Dallas at the Higher Education Center.

Law Enforcement Teaching Students (LETS): Funds were provided for printing anti-drug education materials for use in Dallas area schools. Dallas police officers teach fourth and sixth grade students how to recognize drugs and how to avoid becoming involved in drug-related activity.

Scholarships: In partnership with the Dallas County Community College District, more than a 100 at-risk students were offered the opportunity to further their education and gain important job skills through “Better Kids. Better Dallas.” scholarships. Currently, 80 students are enrolled at community colleges throughout the city.

While our first year was exciting and effective, much work remains to be done. We still need your help, and we still need your financial support. If either interests you, please give me a call (670-4068).

My best wishes to all of you for a wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to the New Year with much anticipation for what is to come for the Lake Highlands community.