The Los Angeles Police Department debuted a new youth mentoring program where specially trained police officers mentor kids while teaching them how to ride minibikes. The National Youth Project Using Minibikes (NYPUM), is a national youth mentoring program that began in 1969 and has been going strong ever since. NYPUM has never strayed from its foundational philosophy of providing youth on the margin access to opportunities to succeed in their lives.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Traffic Division (VTD), Off-Road Unit, has taken on the challenge of mentoring youth from our Communities ages 10 through 17, to overcome the many challenges they face in their lives each day. NYPUM provides an extraordinary experience for kids to develop self-confidence, decision making, teamwork, risk management and other valuable life skills. “This is a tremendous opportunity for LAPD to further strengthen our relationships with our Communities and provide a positive experience for our youth” said Captain Andrew Neiman, who is the Commanding Officer of the LAPD’s Valley Traffic Division (VTD). Captain Neiman said the true driving force behind this great venture was Officer Steve Carbajal, one of VTD’s motor officers who is also a member of their Off-Road Unit.
Officer Carbajal heard about the NYPUM program and immediately knew this was the kind of program that kids in Los Angeles needed. “When I was kid, one of my friends invited me to go dirt bike riding with his family and I was hooked” Carbajal said. “In fact, once I started riding dirt bikes it changed my entire outlook on everything, and it definitely motivated me to do what I love with the LAPD.” With his passion for off-road dirt bike riding and his desire to engage with the youth of Los Angeles, Officer Carbajal began pitching the idea of LAPD starting a NYPUM program. After more than two years, Carbajal secured funding through a grant provided by California’s Office of Transportation Safety (OTS) and the LAPD NYPUM program was under way.
Through the generous grant provided by OTS, Carbajal and officers from the Valley Traffic Division are now implementing this powerful youth program on their days off. The OTS grant provides funding for the officer’s salaries along with the necessary safety equipment, minibike maintenance and other associated fees for the program. Additional grant money was also provided by the Los Angeles Police Foundation to help pay for additional supplies and equipment needed.
The Mission Statement of NYPUM is to provide at-risk youth of America an opportunity to develop self-esteem, strong values and a sense of responsibility using the minibike as a motivational tool. The officers who volunteered to become NYPUM Instructors, are all LAPD certified motor officers and members of the LAPD Off-Road Motorcycle cadre. Although highly skilled motor officers, each officer attended a 6-day instructor course provided by NYPUM and the Motorcycle Safety Council (MSC) to become Certified NYPUM Instructors (CNI). Mark Speller, is the National Director of NYPUM and oversees the program throughout the country. “When the LAPD reached out to us and wanted to become members of the NYPUM family we were very excited” Speller said. Having LAPD join the NYPUM family will establish a new opportunity for LAPD to mentor youths who may not otherwise have such an opportunity. “We didn’t allow LAPD to cut any corners either, their officers were all required to attend the 6-day training that we mandate for all of our CNIs” Speller added. The instructor training for the officers included mentoring skills, learning modalities, teaching methodologies, human behavior and developing young people to be successful, along with a 21- lesson curriculum to develop safe minibike riding skills.
NYPUM also developed a partnership with the California State Parks who maintain and operate numerous off-highway vehicle recreational areas throughout the state of California. The LAPD NYPUM program will be working closely with the California State Parks. Plans are already in the works for trail rides and additional riding experiences in the nearby Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreational Area (SVRA) when the kids are ready. Commissioner Paul Slavik, has been a member of the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission since 2008. Slavik who is an avid motorcycle enthusiast said “when we were approached by NYPUM to participate in this program, I knew this was a great opportunity to introduce kids to our State Parks and particularly kids who may not otherwise have such an experience.” The Hungry Valley SVRA is the third largest unit of California State Park’s Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. Located in the Tejon Pass north of Los Angeles and along the Interstate 5 corridor, Hungry Valley offers 19,000 acres and more than 130 miles of scenic trails for motorcycle, All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV), dune buggies, and 4×4 recreation. All levels of OHV operator skills will be challenged by the wide variety of terrain and trails at Hungry Valley SVRA. Slavik added “these kids will be participating with other NYPUM programs from various cities next week (June 11-13), when we host the NYPUM Rodeo up at our Hungry Valley SVRA.” The NYPUM Rodeo is an event where various programs gather and the kids compete in various riding competitions to test their skills.
Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, who oversees the LAPD’s Office of Special Operations, is very excited about the potential of this new endeavor. “The NYPUM program is another wonderful opportunity for our officers to have positive and impactful interactions with the youth of our Communities. I for one am very optimistic about programs like NYPUM that seek unique ways to bring about positive changes within our Communities” Girmala said. Chief Girmala oversees the specialized tactical resources of the LAPD including SWAT, Bomb Squad and Air Support, she also maintains oversight of the youth programs including the LAPD Cadets, and now the newly implemented NYPUM program. Girmala added “Chief Moore is committed to a strong and resilient relationship with our Communities and he sees value in programs like NYPUM where officers can engage with our youth in a positive fashion.” Girmala believes the positive impact of the NYPUM program will enable youth to gain a newfound appreciation for the outdoors as well as their communities.
LAPD is confident that NYPUM’s unique use of minibikes as a tool will help to promote positive behavior and responsible young members of our Communities. This challenging program will increase Community engagement while developing our youth to be positive influences in their Communities and help forge a better future for all.