Summer of safety may launch youth corps as crime fighters


WASHINGTON -- Reflecting a rising federal emphasis on anti-crime initiatives, the White House said yesterday that its new national service program will focus entirely on helping to make American communities safer next summer.

The estimated 3,500 participants in the summer portion of the 1994 national service program could perform such duties as joining in community policing, conducting crime prevention training for the elderly and children, helping clean up dangerous areas to return them to neighborhood use, and counseling crime victims, administration officials said.

"It was an idea formed after listening to the passion in the president's Memphis speech last week," said Eli Segal, president and chief the new Corporation for National and Community Service, which will administer the national service program. "It's a way of reinforcing the president's commitment to public safety and a way of reinforcing that national service gets things done."

The White House announcement followed earlier pleas by President Clinton for communities to become more engaged in dealing with crime and violence.

National service, which has been described as a domestic Peace Corps, could help communities combat the sources of crime and violence from the inside out by involving young people in their own neighborhoods.

The concentration on community safety next summer will draw a spotlight to national service, Mr. Segal said, because crime is a top concern of the public, the president and the Congress, which just passed handgun control legislation and is considering a broad anti-crime bill.

But it also presents a significant risk for the new program, which has been ordered by Congress to show measurable results if it wants to receive future funding.

In signing the National and Community Service and Trust Act in September, the president fulfilled a major campaign promise to help young people pay for education by serving their country. In 1994, 20,000 participants are to be engaged in full-time community service -- from tutoring to environmental cleanup work -- and will receive a low-wage salary and benefits in addition to awards of $4,725 per year of service to apply toward their education or training. Summer-only participants will receive smaller awards of $1,000.

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