Junior police ensure safety

Published 10:55 pm Friday, May 18, 2012

Members of Forest Glen Middle School’s Wildcat Watchers, and the Crimestoppers club’s sponsor, Charlene Dunne, keep a watchful eye on their school and communities.

When somebody in Suffolk is up to no good, there’s a chance a kid trading vital information for anonymity and a safer environment will help bring them to justice.

At a basketball game at Forest Glen Middle School on Friday, members of the Wildcat Watchers, a 35-strong club at the school, had their eyes and ears open, as they do wherever they go.

On this particular occasion, though, they were probably unlikely to catch anyone tagging a wall or bullying someone.

Email newsletter signup

The basketball game was the school’s second annual such fundraiser for the Wildcats’ parent organization, Crimestoppers.

A bunch of police officers, slamming baskets one after the other, faced off against a team of Forest Glen seventh- and eighth-graders.

The club, whose president is eighth-grader Ian Dunston, works with Forest Glen’s community resource officer, Chuck Bradshaw, providing information that often stops fights that have been planned before they can happen, and sometimes leads to crimes being solved and arrests being made.

“The kids are the eyes and the ears of the school and the community,” club sponsor Charlene Dunne said. “They range from sixth to eighth grade.”

According to Suffolk Public Schools, its Crimestoppers program is designed to encourage students to come forward with information about crimes, the use and sale of alcohol and drugs, and the possession of weapons on school property and in the local community, among various other functions.

Iris Davis, community resource officer at John Yeates Middle School, said tips she receives help solve crimes both in the school and the community.

“They drop a note in my box or tell someone else who tells me,” she said. “They’re the best way to get information because they’re in the class with the other students, and they know what’s going on.

“A lot of times something happens in the community and they come in and share information about it.”

At Lakeland High, Business Education Teacher DeShonna Johnson sponsors what her school dubs its community restoration team.

Like other Crimestoppers groups, the team participates in community outreach as well as helps the police.

Members attend Kilby Shores Elementary School to read the younger students books about community safety issues.

“They understand that if our environment is to be safe, a lot of that has to do with the students taking ownership,” Johnson said.

Anonymity shields informants from being targeted by other students as “snitches,” Davis said. “That’s the thing that I stress with the kids when I meet with them; no one knows the identity,” she said.

Information that assists in an investigation wins students rewards. “Depending on the information that’s given, it’s $10 to $15,” Johnson said. “It’s no set amount … (we) decide depending on the type of crime, the information given, and whether it led to an arrest.”

Besides helping solve crimes and raising awareness, fundraising is another role of Crimestoppers clubs. At the basketball game, the Wildcat Watchers presented Crimestoppers a $250 check.

The club is also planning to help Southwestern Elementary School students make two books about community safety issues.