Nearly 20 kids recently participated in the department’s inaugural Youth Enrichment Camp at Jaycee Park. The camp involved quite a variety of events, including physical fitness courses, solving mock crimes, learning handcuffing techniques, and a visit to juvenile court in Raleigh.
School resource officers Jason Stone and Matthew Mellenberger organized the camp as a way to give youth a clearer perspective on law enforcement.
“As SROs, we typically head up different youth related programs during the summertime,” said Stone. “Some surrounding departments hold similar camps and we wanted to have a law enforcement-based summer program for the youth of this community.
Two free one-week camps were held with 10 campers ages 12-14 years old participating in the first week and nine taking part in the second camp.
“We were shooting for 8 to 10 campers so our attendance was optimum,” said Stone. “It was exactly what we were looking for. We were able to offer it for free and that was a big thing. The town really stepped up.” The first day of camp was spent mostly indoors discussing teen issues, including drugs, gangs, texting, and the Internet.
“We wanted to provide them with some information before they actually get to high school,” said Stone. “But we tried to keep the lectures to a minimum.”
Following the discussions Stone and Mellenberger taught the kids proper handcuffing technique.
“Each kid got to practice handcuffing a police officer,” said Stone.
During the second day campers participated in a youth-friendly Police Officer Preparedness Agility Test and the third day was spent in Raleigh watching juvenile court proceedings and the taking a tour of the county jail.
“Judge Croom spoke to them for about 30 minutes and they got to ask some questions,” said Stone. “Then they received a very thorough and intensive tour of the jail. That was definitely one of their favorite days. It was jam-packed.”
Detective Worth Brown spoke to the campers on the fourth day and explained how crime scenes are processed. He also set up two mock scenes and gave the clues needed to make the crimes solvable.
“We had a homicide and a breaking-and-entering for them to solve,” said Stone. “We showed them how to bag evidence and retrieve fingerprints and they were able to solve the crimes.”
The final day was a team-building event spent on a rope course on Bond Park.
Stone said both parents and campers provided plenty of positive feedback about the weeklong program. “Most of the parents felt that it gave the kids a good real-life perspective of law enforcement and provided some unique experiences that you wouldn’t be able to do without the supervision of police officers,” said Stone.
“We didn’t cater to kids who had an interest in law enforcement. But if you did have an interest it definitely made it that much more worthwhile. We tried to give a really in-depth look at law enforcement but at the same time make it fun-filled enough so that any kid would like it. They really seemed to enjoy it.” Stone said he hopes to hold the camp again next year.
“Based on the feedback we’ve gotten it’s definitely our intention to make it an annual event,” said Stone.