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West Side Story Project


In 2007, The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle was preparing for an upcoming production of the musical "West Side Story". Anna Laszlo, a boardmember of The 5th Avenue Theatre, saw an opportunity to bring together theater, law enforcement, youth organizations, and schools for youth and gang violence prevention.

Together with Detective Kim Bogucki and Officer Adrian Diaz of the Seattle PD, and Liza Comtois of the 5th Avenue Theatre, Anna formed a planning group for the project. Other partners included the Seattle Police Foundation, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Public Middle and High Schools, King County Boys and Girls Club, and Town Hall Seattle. The West Side Story Project (WSSP) was born.


Using "West Side Story" as the point of reference, adult planners worked with 30 dedicated youth to organize summits attended by over 300 youth who participated in gang prevention workshops, dramatic role reversals with officers, and theater games to reduce cultural conflict. Many of these youth also created original works based on themes from West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet at Ballard High School Little Theater. Youth involved in the project also had the opportunity to tour back stage to meet the musical’s cast members and watch the professional performance at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Two youth participants also joined police and theater representatives as they presented the project to the Police Executive Research Forum in Chicago. Additionally, there was an adult community dialogue hosted by Town Hall Seattle to discuss youth violence prevention in the Seattle community.


After successful replications of the WSSP in White Plains, NY and Los Angeles, the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has made this into a toolkit that is available free of charge to law enforcement agencies and can also be purchased for use in communities nationwide.

the West Side story project in seattle

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Townhall forum About the West Side story project and Gang Intervention

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