Swedish visitors learn about Sioux City's gang outreach program - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Swedish visitors learn about Sioux City's gang outreach program

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

Gang violence impacts many communities and countries all over the world. One group from Sweden traveled to Siouxland to get a lesson on how to help young people get on the right track.

And, those who work at the Sanford Center were more than willing to share their expertise.

"When we started this program, there were 25 to 30 organized gangs, and I think today we don't have more than 10 gangs in this city. I still believe there is gang activity in the city, but not at the rate it used to be," Sanford Center Programming Director Fitz Grant said.

"Well, here the work has been going on for such a long time, and it's good for us to get that inspiration, and see what we can bring in to Sweden," Pernilla Vera, with Social Services in Botkyrka Municipality, said.

Grant said his organization helps youngsters stay safe, which in turn makes for a better community for all.

He talked to the foreigners about the roots of the program.

"When we first did this, it was very uncomfortable situation because we had no idea in terms of what we were getting into, but we knew that we were working with kids and saying that, that was a good thing," Grant said.

Even though they live half a world away, this group can relate. They also have gang issues in Sweden.

"We have a lot more in common than is different," Martin Permen, with the National Police Board in Sweden, said.

"Within my unit, we have similar interventions," Vera said.

"I think what makes our program so successful is the mere fact that we don't age anybody out of our program. From day one, we start with trust. Then, from trust, we build a relationship, and that relationship goes well into adulthood," Grant said.

Those visiting from Sweden said they have a variety of gang-outreach programs back home,  but they admire how this one in Sioux City is built around trust and a long-time committment.

It starts with an after-school program that keeps young people busy and off the streets.

"We don't stay with the kid as long as they did. I think that's an important part. Like they said, 'they're still kids when they're 30,'" Vera said.

"Trust in role models, I think that's the key thing here. If that's the police who should do that or social welfare should do that, I'm not really sure. We have to see how it fits in to our system," Permen said.

A system getting guidance from the Sanford Center and Siouxland.

The Swedes also had a chance to meet with several other organizations in Sioux City like the United Way of Siouxland and Siouxland CARES.

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