Annapolis officials announced a new initiative Monday to recruit and train mentors for youth outreach programs as part of a continuing effort to reduce crime in the state capital.

The Volunteer Center for Anne Arundel County will manage the Treasure Hunters Clearinghouse, which hopes to recruit, screen and train 60 volunteers in the next year to serve as youth mentors in existing programs. The effort will be funded with about $45,000 from city, county and state sources.

"I know the importance of having strong adult role models for so many of our young people," said House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat, at a late-afternoon news conference to announce the initiative. "Our children are the future of our state, and we must do everything we can to educate them, support them and help them thrive."

Annapolis Mayor Joshua J. Cohen said the program would allow better coordination among a variety of mentoring programs.

"We can do a better job of increasing our effectiveness by better coordinating these many efforts," said Cohen, a Democrat. "That's what this initiative is about."

The mentor training initiative is part of a broader anti-crime initiative, Capital City Safe Streets, which coordinates federal, state and local law enforcement to decrease crime in Annapolis. The program, which began in 2008, has brought together groups such as the U.S. attorney's office and the Division of Parole and Probation, and began with $500,000 in funding to increase police patrols and add lighting and security cameras in public housing communities.

The program has been credited with substantially decreasing crime in Annapolis since its inception.

Police Chief Michael Pristoop said 2011 was a "banner year" in Annapolis, with violent crime decreasing by nearly 30 percent over the previous year, but he cautioned that "it's definitely not time to pop the champagne yet."

"Mentoring will be another successful ingredient" to the Safe Streets program, Pristoop said. In 2011, Annapolis had just one homicide.

The Treasure Hunters Clearinghouse will be funded with $9,000 from the city's Community Development Block Grant, $23,000 from the Anne Arundel Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, and $13,000 from the state-funded Capital City Safe Street program.

Lyn Farrow, the city's grants coordinator, said volunteers would be expected to dedicate one hour a week for a year to a mentorship. Volunteers are required to undergo a background check and will receive training for their assignment.

To volunteer call the Volunteer Center for Anne Arundel County at (410) 897-9207 or email Sarah Litts at sarah@volunteerannearundel.org

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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