Update: Lowell, MA Monks and Police Unite to Help Youngsters

July 26, 2003

Source: The New York Times


On July 26, 2003 The New York Times reported that "Lowell [MA], a city of 105,000, has had a large influx of Southeast Asians in the past five years, most of them Cambodians who have settled in the Highlands neighborhood. The 2000 census shows that Asians constitute about 17 percent of the population here, a figure officials believe has since grown. The city has also seen a sharp rise in Cambodian gangs, which were virtually unknown here 10 years ago... Most gang members are boys 12 to 16, Capt. Robert DeMoura of the Lowell Police Department said. They join mostly for protection on the streets, Captain DeMoura said, and a gang is a family of sorts when it is not unusual for parents to work two or three jobs... Previous outreach projects had failed, mainly because of the language barrier, Captain DeMoura said, and the department was willing to try anything. So this time, it decided to use religion, citing the strong place it has in Cambodian life and culture... The police enlisted the help of Chanda Soth, a police project assistant who lives in the gang members' neighborhood and has strong ties to a Buddhist temple in neighboring town of North Chelmsford, a five-minute drive from here. Ms. Soth also speaks Khmer, and acts as the police translator. The seven monks who live at the temple immediately agreed to a program intended to help the troubled Cambodian youngsters."