This Crime Watch column originally ran April 10, 2016:
Many of you have written to me about the gun violence in our community. This week’s column is by Youth Crime Watch Program Director Joel Mesa, who writes about a effort here to reduce the bloodshed:
Youth Crime Watch (YCW) of Miami-Dade County serves nearly 35,000 students per school year via youth crime prevention presentations, safety projects, YCW club meetings, assemblies, rallies and special events. Our YCW school coordinators conduct more than 500 presentations per school year at Miami-Dade schools on reporting crimes, school safety, school violence prevention, bullying and cyberbullying prevention, sexting prevention, stranger danger, personal safety, drug prevention, gun prevention, character education, cyber safety, anger management, McGruff the Crime Dog, and much more.
I have experienced firsthand the dominant factors that youth crime prevention education has in molding our future leaders to strive for success and strengthen our school communities. The students are the “eyes & ears” of our schools. They are the primary stakeholders in preventing crime at their schools by educating their peers on safety topics and anonymously reporting threats & warning signs that can lead to violent incidents.
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However, they cannot do this without adequate training. YCW of Miami-Dade County’s primary mission is to provide them the training and skills to make their safety visions an observable reality. It is a mission that has been possible year after year.
Children and young people can be vulnerable to fall for the ills of school crime. Youth Crime Watch (YCW) of Miami-Dade County has been healing those ills throughout the last 34 years by implementing youth crime watch programs in the Miami-Dade schools. YCW of Miami-Dade County was selected as the National Crime Prevention Program of the Year by the National Crime Prevention Council. YCW educates students on safety skills; in turn the youth apply those skills in their schools to promote safe school environments, educate their peers on youth crime prevention, and curb school crime. The organization also provides students and faculty a multitude of crime prevention materials so the safety education can be reinforced in the classroom lessons and in YCW club activities.
YCW is also the premier organization which has McGruff appear at Miami-Dade school safety functions.
School crime statistics and survey assessments have continuously demonstrated that schools with YCW programs have lower crime rates and safer school environments as stated by current and previous school police chiefs. This in turn is a contributing factor in academic achievement. A child that is fearful of being bullied and harassed will prioritize their fear over their academics. On the other side of the “safety spectrum, “ those children that feel comfortable and safe in their school environments will be more motivated & determined to focus on their academics.
Crime Prevention is a holistic process, working with teachers, counselors, parents, administrators and school police, but most important is you the parent who makes the difference in the continued efforts in keeping our children safe. For information, call 305-470-1670 and we will be happy to send you a brochure.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.