Keeping kids out of trouble for the summer

New programs aim to keep kids busy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The summer has officially started and with it comes fun in the sun, sand and water, especially for kids who are out of school. But police said that with more young people out and about with little supervision, that fun can turn to trouble.

"I think that comes with more time in the day that they have free time. Less responsibility means more getting into stuff that they probably shouldn't get into," Christian Hancock, with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.

Summer break started this weekend for students in Duval County and police said historically that certain crimes go up because juveniles are out of school.

"Theft, shoplifting type thefts, and criminal mischief," Hancock said.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer Christian Hancock says auto, home and business burglaries pick up too.

"Patrolmen are always out looking for these types of scenarios, looking for children hanging out in places, loitering in places where they shouldn't be," Hancock said.

Even before students were let out of classes, local teenagers have had a harrowing couple of months, bearing witness to several shootings, some of them fatal. Some parent's worry that violence will only intensify with the summer heat.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said that those parents need to be proactive, know who their kids are hanging out with and keep a close eye on them.

"Summertime is just starting. We have already had several shootings. I would strongly advise, starting now, to have a curfew for your kids. Keep them in the house by a certain time so they are not out there in the streets and possibly become a victim of one of these crimes," Smith said.

Glendora McCargo is one of those caretakers who is being proactive and keeping a close eye on her goddaughter. McCargo signed her up for summer programs like a swimming camp in Durkeeville.

"As long as they are involved in something every day, they are going to be okay," McCargo said. "Keeping them busy. Keeping them occupied. Keeping them involved with different community activities. We need as many community activities as we can get."

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown also recently announced that they city will reopen five youth centers and make other policy changes to fight violence and crime among the city's young people.

The mayor's initiatives include extending summer hours at 14 community centers and gyms, and add four additional parks to his Summer Urban Parks/Rec ‘n Roll initiative. The expansion is as follows:

• Hours will be extended until 9 p.m., Monday through Friday at the following community centers: Balis, C.T. Brown, Dinsmore, H.T. Jones, Julian Barrs, Oceanway and Windy Hill.
• Hours will be extended until 10 p.m., Monday through Friday at the following gyms: Cecil, Cuba Hunter, Emmett Reed, Legends, M.L. Gibbs, and Robert Kennedy.
• The Charlie Joseph Senior Center near Panama Park will open to youth from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. The center, which until now only served seniors, previously closed at 5 p.m.
• The four parks that will join 18 others already announced as part of this summer's Rec 'N Roll program are Burnett Park, Criswell Park, Mitchell Center and Westside Park.

The city of Jacksonville is also offering a number of camps. An aqua camp, tennis camp and ocean camp are just among the few being offered. A number of pools will also be open this summer. Youth football and basketball programs are also being offered.

For more information about these programs, please visit coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation.aspx.