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Students encouraged to watch for, report crime

By By Steve Gillespie/staff writer
Feb. 10, 2002
Meridian students told Youth Crime Watch representatives on Saturday stories about fighting, vandalism, threats and foul language in their schools and on school buses.
Darron Farr, director of the Youth Crime Watch, told the students that it's important for them to talk to someone about questionable behavior before it becomes more serious.
And Farr, whose program is affiliated with the state Attorney General's Office, wants to bridge the communication gap between students and adults to help prevent that type of behavior.
About 30 Meridian students, mostly elementary-age children, spent part of their weekend learning how to help deter crime. They attended a Youth Crime Watch training session at Carver Middle School.
Farr was in charge of the session; he was assisted by several trainers.
Sam Thompson, Meridian public schools' director of safety, said principals and counselors identified six to eight students from each district campus to attend the session and at least one adult from each school to act as an adviser.
Not every school was represented.
Farr said part of the session's goal was to encourage students to reach out and share what they learn with classmates. He said the session was on Saturday to test the dedication of the adults.
Thompson echoed Farr's remarks, saying the Youth Crime Watch and Youth CrimeStoppers programs both new to Meridian public schools are ways to get students involved in maintaining a safe school environment.
Parents, he said, must get involved, too.
Concerned parent
Carver Middle School bookkeeper Opal Miller, who has a son in the fifth grade at West End Elementary, attended the session as a concerned parent.
She said more adults are needed on the district's school buses to keep order. She suggested placing video cameras on buses and in classrooms because many incidents allegedly happen without any witnesses.
Saturday's session began with an "ice-breaker" in which participants were assigned farm animals to imitate representing the diversity of individuals.
Mildred Bell, a Youth Crime Watch trainer, explained to the children that every one in their school and community is entitled to be safe just like the animals in the farm yard.
She said Youth Crime Watchers is about making sure crime doesn't happen.
The students were encouraged to report suspicious acts to their campus Youth Crime Watch advisors and other adults. Or they were urged to use the school's Youth CrimeStoppers phone number at 484-4906.
Curbing violence
Another trainer, Sandra Bryant of Brandon said she became involved with the program after seeing what students were facing in Jackson's public schools where she worked as an after-school coordinator.
She said the Youth Crime Watchers program is an effective way to curb crime in the schools.
Bryant said students with whom she has worked, especially those in the seventh and eighth grade, told her about smoking, being sexually active and having access to narcotics, particularly ecstasy.