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Gangs Turn Wrenches With Help Of Police (+podcast)

Thursday, March 14, 2019
Courtesy of D.R.A.G.G.

(K-LOVE Closer Look – Kindra Ponzio/Marya Morgan) Police in Oxnard, Cali. get greasy with local teens to teach automotive repair and restoration. The operation is called D.R.A.G.G. (Drag Racing Against Gangs & Graffiti) and offers highschool credits while creating positive relationships with law enforcement.  

Police Sgt. Charles “Woody” Woodruff and his partner had seen way too many kids go down the wrong path. “You find yourself running into the same young men and women every day,” and after the senseless death of one particular teen on his beat, Woody decided enough was enough. “Being a police officer you carry baggage, little stories, so that was definitely a story that got put into my suitcase, and I thought, is there something else we could have done?” Not long after, a door opened to perform preventative maintenance on the hearts and minds of at-risk kids.

“Coaching, mixed in with my experience as a gang officer…and myself and (co-founder) Sgt. (Dan) Shrubb being into the automotive side of life, that’s what connected it all,” Sgt. Woodruff explains. The officers go under the hood alongside the students to turn wrenches and the time invested builds more than fast cars. “They get to actually see what it’s like to interact with a police officer.”

The program currently has four student-built vehicles and located in Oxnard, Santa Barbara and recently expanded to Phoenix, Arizona. Since D.R.A.G.G. began in 2011, more than 400 students have graduated from the program, some of whom have gone on to careers in the automotive industry.

“Everybody loves cars…all of a sudden you just broke that barrier. That’s kinda what we do with our cars.”

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