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Posted on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Confronting fight clubs: Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office seeks expansion of after-school program to West Willow

By Amy Biolchini

Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. with additional information from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.

To prevent future problems similar to ones that had previously surfaced in Ypsilanti Township neighborhoods with teen fight clubs, the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office is planning to expand an after-school program this year.


As a part of an increased effort to confront crime in the West Willow neighborhood, including patrols pictured here, the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office is looking to expand an after-school program to youth.

Tom Perkins | file photo

The department has applied for a $20,000 grant from the Coordinated Funding pool of the Ann Arbor Community Foundation, the United Way and the Washtenaw County Offices of Community and Economic Development to extend the county’s “Telling It” Program (TIP).

The grant will be used to hire and train four site facilitators to engage youth living in the West Willow neighborhood in Ypsilanti Township, as well as the MacArthur Boulevard housing developments in Superior Township who will coordinate weekly after-school programs for youth between the ages of 11 and 15 years old.

The facilitators will all be members of the community who have experience working with youth and promoting responsible behaviors.

TIP is a creative arts and engaged learning program that targets at-risk, marginalized youth. Sessions are once a week, and involve students from the University of Michigan.

Part of the scheme of the program is to use multimedia projects — including video and photography, according to the grant application.

In addition to promoting community-building in the neighborhoods, the sheriff's office is hoping the program can help combat the root of issues that had risen in West Willow, including fight clubs among teenage girls, said Commander Derrick Jackson, PIO for the sheriff's office.

Teenage boys had instigated fights between teenage girls in the neighborhood, in the same fashion that dog fights were coordinated, according to information provided by the Sheriff’s Office in the grant application. The fights were videotaped and uploaded to YouTube.

In 2011, a sheriff’s deputy told the New West Willow Neighborhood Association said about 80 youths were gathering for the fights that lasted about 15 minutes in a scheduled fashion.

Since then, Jackson said the sheriff's office has interacted with a number of the individuals involved in the activities and the fights have noticeably stopped.

“I think we’re at a good point, we have a lot of residents that are engaged,” Jackson said of the West Willow community.

If the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approves the use of the grant funding for the extension of the program, sessions would begin in February at Danbury Park, Sycamore Meadows and West Willow. The board is slated to vote on the issue at its Ways and Means meeting 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office will be working with the New West Willow Neighborhood Association, Greater Works Youth Empowerment, Young Women Making Washtenaw County Better and the Ypsilanti Public Library to expand the program.

The sheriff’s office has addressed gang activity since the 1990s, and currently estimates between nine and 10 cliques exist in the West Willow neighborhood.

Since 2009 the sheriff’s office has assigned two deputies to the MacArthur Boulevard community to investigate community problems. The effectiveness of the assignment resulted in a team assigned in 2010 to the West Willow neighborhood.

The department also has started a Community Action Team, which the sheriff's office credits as one of the key reason that recent statistics have shown crime in the West Willow neighborhood has decreased from 2011 to 2012.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Life in Ypsi

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

As someone who was unforntunate enough to live near one of the youth's in the "fight club", I can tell you much more needs to be done. Amazing how many times a person can start fights in the neighborhood and cause all sorts of problems with no consequences. Talking to the parent was useless as she swore and threatned me. They learn from their parents.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

Looks like a ton of work and a ton of resources and are slowly paying off - I say slowly because we're still talking about fight clubs after a long time. I wonder if it would be been easier if Ypsilanti Township had acutally paid a proper staffing level for their needs.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 9:12 a.m.

"To prevent future problems that had previously" ... wow, my brain just seized.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 11:29 a.m.

Just made an editing change to that sentence to smooth it out a bit.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 3:16 a.m.

A very commendable effort on the part of our Sheriff's department. Everyone is safer as a result, including these teens. This is a worthy example of crime prevention. We should remember this when asked to support the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 1:51 a.m.

Why not give the money to the community action team?


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

wow such a great idea I double tapped it, lol


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 1:22 a.m.

how about some funding for a ring and some boxing gloves, set up a gym (maybe in the basement of one of the churchs) and teach em how to box. We had a boxing club when I grew up. You would be amazed at the number of kids that came out and got into the sport and were bettered by it. Great exercise, teaches discipline etc and who knows maybe you'll find the next Mayweather or Layla Ali.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 1:21 a.m.

how about some funding for a ring and some boxing gloves, set up a gym (maybe in the basement of one of the churchs) and teach em how to box. We had a boxing club when I grew up. You would be amazed at the number of kids that came out and got into the sport and were bettered by it. Great exercise, teaches discipline etc and who knows maybe you'll find the next Mayweather or Layla Ali.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

this seems more plausible. the boys & girls clubs offered boxing back in my day.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

The first rule of Willow Run fight club is to never ...


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 11:02 p.m.

While I really really hope this is successful, I have a feeling this is one of those things that looks better on paper.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 2:20 a.m.

Well I see a lot of information on their website of what the interns have done and projects that they've worked on. Could you point me in the direction where I can read about success stories of actual kids? I'm confused about the "sessions once a week" and "weekly after school activities". Are these two separate things? Do the after school activities involve any academics or just things to keep the kids' interest away from fighting? As I said, I hope it's successful, they obviously need something positive and stable over there.

tom swift jr.

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 1:26 a.m.

The telling it program has an excellent track record. no point in putting it down if you haven't done that research.

Lisa D

Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 10:38 p.m.

Oops I meant to type DESERVING youth! LD

Lisa D

Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 10:37 p.m.

What a wonderful partnership between two groups that have stellar record of creating and implementing successful programs for at risk youth. Commander Derrick Jackson is to be commended for his vision and enduring passion for these desiring youth! Lisa Dengiz


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

All the problems could be solved with one simple solution. Stop having kids that you cannot raise. If you cannot raise or discipline your child correctly, don't have them. If you live on gov't assistance, don't have a job, can't afford health insurance for your children, don't have them. Please tell me how bringing a child into this world when you have no money benefits the mother/father or the child.

Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 11:20 p.m.

I seen a bumper sticker that said "Don't breed them, If you can't feed them"


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 9:59 p.m.

I know a short time ago there was an article on how well West Willow is doing. I'm curious the impact the Sheriff has had in Sycamore and Danbury.


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 9:33 p.m.

There is no Seymour Meadows in Ypsi. I believe you mean Sycamore Meadow, on Stamford, off MacArthur Blvd. I believe that it is actually in Superior Township, which is definitely not West Willow. Neither is Danbury Green for that matter. West Willow is doing a lot better than in the past, Danbury and Sycamore are different stories. Until they do like the former Lake in the Woods ( Lake in the hood, for those that know) and get rid of their Section 8 troublemakers they will continue to be a problem for everyone in the area. P.S.: To all those offended by my blanket statement about Section 8 renters, just take a breath and save your indignation. We have all heard a million times how so many Section 8 renters are good people caught up in bad times. Perhaps that is true, but when they let their nephews, grandkids, and cousins stay at their place selling drugs and robbing their neighbors, I lose any shred of sympathy for their plight. There is a reason Section 8 gets a bad name, it's from facts and figures, not racism and cultural misunderstanding. Check the # of Sheriff's Dept. calls out to Danbury and Sycamore and compare them to places that do not have such a high concentration of Section 8. I believe the results will be illuminating.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.

Yes, there's no Seymour Meadows. Just changed that in the story.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 12:32 a.m.

Ryan, I live in section 8 housing. if you were to check out my home(not that I would allow you in, in light of your obvious bias!) you would not find anything of an illegal nature in my apartment. my neighbors are quiet, responsible tenants. i am heartily sick of blanket statements such as this. Don't paint all of us with the same brush!!


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

Girls fighting for no count boys, come on girls, get real, education is the key to a place in a mans heart and have more respect, act like young ladies and be for real, come on now, those bone head boys are not worth your time, go to school, get educated and Mothers come on raise these girls up to be little ladies not thugs and well ya know, be for real


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

MacArthur Blvd, the street of war money can help these children educating the parents to raise them right is the key, if parents would rule their kids and stop acting like they are their peers, the children would have respect for adults and their peers, if children were at home doing homework, cleaning and cooking ,then their would be no time for bullying and all that fighten and crazed stuff


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 10:16 p.m.

It all boils down to families and the fact that many black children are not being raised in them with a father at home. The moms are dumped upon by guys who get them pregnant and don't want the responsibilty of raising them. The black leaders don't address the issue, only blame society for how unfair things are. The cycle continues and the leadership continues to fail them while making a good living for themselves off of their plight. Wake up black America, you are being used and held down by your own leaders..............Nothing has changed for decades and nothing will if you don't put two and two together. Kids are raising kids, how's that working out?


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

The Problem for WR is age old, it started with the parents, they do not have time to raise the children to respect them self, school mates, peers, adults, they have no respect and the parents need to be educated in order the children to understand that education is more important than bullying


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

Teen age boys instigate fights between girls "in the same fashion that dog fights are coordinated"?!?! Come on, girls! I hope those facilitators include some black-belt feminists.


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 9:17 p.m.

Sorry to here Willow Run is having problems