At the March 25 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club at La Piazza restaurant in uptown Roxboro, Kevin Crabtree, Chief Deputy with the Person County Sheriff’s Department, spoke about the Gang Resistance Education and Training summer camp program operated by the department. It serves 240 youths in four one-week sessions each summer. The public schools contribute facilities and buses to assist with logistics.
This is designed to supplement the GREAT in-school program, which is operated by the school resource officers. In the morning of each summer camp there are skill-building exercises, followed by fun activities in the afternoon. Topics include distracted driving (using golf carts), peer pressure, team-building and empathy. Crabtree noted that the latter helps in addressing bullying.
Team-building activities included an escape room last summer. A crime scene investigation has been done as well. Surveys are employed to determine the classes and activities that are most popular. Boat rides on Mayo Lake are a perennial favorite, as are swimming pool experiences. Crabtree indicated that the surveys have revealed a significant reduction in reports of exposure to gang activity.
Participants have also gone to the planetarium in Chapel Hill, which serendipitously resulted in the children getting to take a tour of the football locker rooms. Rising sixth- through ninth-graders are the audience served, both male and female.
Crabtree reminded the club that the program has been nationally recognized and has been presented in El Salvador to a group which included members of the Salvadoran Supreme Court. The State Department sponsored this trip. Crabtree is a part of a national training program which resulted in the exposure which enabled this opportunity, in which gang resistance was the emphasis. He informed the club that gang activity in Person County focuses primarily on the business of selling drugs, and that violence is not as big a problem as in the past.
On Friday of each camp week, there is a Palace Pointe day. Attendance at least three of the other four days of camp is required in order to qualify for the Friday activity. Selection for the camp is by online application, and economic status is not a factor. Two snacks and one meal are provided each day. Some children participate more than one year.
Crabtree sees technology as one of the issues to be dealt with. He attributes this to the ability to instantly communicate, which results in saying things people might not otherwise say and which can later result in problems. He cited reality TV as simplistically teaching children that the winner takes all, and he also sees participation trophies as an issue, in failing to prepare young people for the real world. Drug abuse remains an issue in Crabtree’s view.
Club member and retired public school teacher and administrator Don Waldo mentioned that during his time as a principal, the school resource officers were valuable resources. He contended that the students come to trust and respect them, and often will tell the SRO things they would not tell teachers or administrators.
The GREAT program during the school year is presented in the fourth and sixth grades, and Truth About Drugs is presented to fifth-graders. The latter gives specific information about the type of controlled substances children could encounter and how to deal with this. Parents have the option not to have their child participate, but Crabtree observed that there is very little parental resistance to the programs. The students are encouraged to adopt community projects as a way of teaching civic responsibility.
Crabtree noted that grant funds are not as plentiful as they once were, and the Sheriff’s office is seeking to build the program into its annual budget. Costs for the program each summer average about $16,000, so he was grateful to receive a contribution from the club.