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A program worth expanding

A program at Forest Glen Middle School has proven to be an effective antidote to some of the special pressures that middle-school students face that can result in sending them down a path that will prove detrimental to their future success.

The Wildcat Watchers group has fostered relationships between the young participants and mentors from the Suffolk Police Department, giving the police a forum for teaching the youngsters about the dangers of drugs and giving the youth a chance to get to know the officers as people, thereby improving the odds that they will have positive interactions with police in the future.

The children have learned quite a lot about the dangers of drugs, including opioids, which have created a crisis around the nation in recent years and have led to the untimely deaths of countless individuals.

Participants have been warned about the dangers, and they have been encouraged to let the police know — through anonymous calls to Crime Stoppers, the school-based version of Crime Line — if they see drug-related activity taking place around them. As with Crime Line, Crime Stoppers calls that lead to an arrest can earn the tipsters rewards.

Forest Glen Middle School’s Kerri Epperson said she’s seen her students develop positive relationships with law enforcement in the past year, including School Resource Officer Nicole Hayward.

Fostering these relationships is crucial for students that may live in areas where they’re exposed to drugs and violence, she said. “They don’t always see everybody at their best, and they don’t always feel comfortable with police officers,” she said.

Such programs are a key component in the efforts by the police department to foster positive relationships with Suffolk citizens and, it is hoped, to avoid the clashes between police and citizens that have been seen around the United States in recent years.

We’d love to see this program expanded to all Suffolk schools in coming years.