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County’s Gang Prevention Task Force To Host Soccer Tournament This Weekend

Arlington’s Gang Prevention Task Force will hold its 12th annual Gang Prevention Soccer Tournament on Sunday, June 25 at Washington-Lee High School from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The program is heavily promoted at the middle and high school levels among boys and girls, particularly in High Intensity Language Training and English for Speakers of Other Languages classrooms.

Task force coordinator Robert Vilchez said that those who have recently moved to the area may struggle to adjust, and the tournament helps them find their place in their new environment.

When Vilchez joined the task force, statistics showed that the majority of the gangs in the area were Latino. The MS-13 gang, in particular, is one of the most pervasive; WTOP reported this week that authorities are concerned that MS-13 activity is on the rise in Northern Virginia and the D.C. area.

Vilchez said soccer seemed like a natural activity to use to bring awareness to the gang issue, due to its popularity and the pool of talented players in the area.

“It’s a beautiful sport that brings kids together and our soccer tournament is just about engaging our youth, making them aware of what resources, programs and services that already exist in the county,” said Vilchez.

All the materials from the tournament feature the program’s slogan, “Don’t lose yourself in a gang” and include the number for a helpline and the address for a website that tries to help prevent teens joining gangs.

“After each tournament, the people who manage the website see a number of hits and there’s an increase of calls asking for more information,” Vilchez said.

Registration is closed but the tournament is open to spectators.

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