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An Anaheim Police Department charity aimed at helping at-risk youth make better decisions was named the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce’s non-profit of the year, officials announced today.
Cops 4 Kids, a 12-year-old non-profit best known for its innovative Junior Cadet Program, has made a difference in the lives of thousands of children.
“They do a lot for children in the area and are very deserving of the award,” said Melodie Farr, a chamber spokeswoman.
Police Chief John Welter said the department was honored to be recognized.
“The award validates the important difference our officers have made in the lives of so many children,” he said. “Community support plays a critical role in our success. I invite residents, business leaders and others to get involved.”
C4K is holding a fund-raiser Nov. 13. For details, click here. The chamber will honor Cops 4 Kids at a luncheon Dec. 10.
Below is some background on Cops 4 Kids.
When Anaheim police officers hear crime rates have dropped nationwide, they take heart in knowing they are part of a grassroots effort that is making important contributions toward that worthy goal. A spin off of the Anaheim Police Activities League, the Cops 4 Kids program provides a safe haven to hundreds of youth and teaches them to shun the temptation of crime and instead be productive citizens.
“Every hour our kids spend at the C4K facility or in one of our community programs, is one less hour a drug dealer, child abuser, or other criminal has access to these precious children,” said Welter. “Law enforcement is focused on reducing local crime. C4K goes to the root-source of what makes our youth decide the type of citizen they will become as they grow up.”
The impact of the effort is particularly apparent now. During recessionary times, crime rates historically spike. Crime prevention and community building programs such as C4K play a key role in maintaining Anaheim’s outstanding safety record. “Especially for the younger kids, this is an opportunity for them to have their first interaction with the police department be a positive one,” said Cathy Dutton, president of C4K’s board of directors. “Then they won’t have a negative or fearful reaction when they encounter the police and know that they are there to help them and guide them throughout their lives.”
C4K began in 1995 when a few Anaheim police officers began teaching karate to neighborhood children. The need and benefit was immediately evident. The department formed the Anaheim Police Activities League. Over the years, APAL has mentored thousands of former bullies, truants and troubled teens. In the past three years alone, more than 2,500 children have been touched by the program, which was recently re-branded to better describe its expanded mission.
C4K’s Mission, Goals and Values
C4K’s mission is to use simple techniques like friendship, dancing, fishing and camping, music and trips to Big Bear Lake in developing responsible, respectful and disciplined character traits. For many participants, the excursions are an exciting first-time adventure. Another goal and value is creating lasting bonds between law enforcement and at-risk youth.
The program’s growth and leadership
When public funding for the DARE program disappeared, the department’s school resource officers acted immediately to replace it with a program that is arguably even more effective – the Junior Cadet program. The first of its kind in California, the innovative program puts children through a military-like academy, teaching them citizenship and respect for authority and others. It has become a model copied by other police departments. Another barometer of its success: About half the kids from the beginner cadet courses return for advanced classes. Several later become police explorers.
Maria Montesdeoca is an Anaheim parent who put her son through the program and saw an improvement in his attitude and his attention to things like homework. “He’s now more responsible,” she said. “After the program, he pays more attention to me. I really recommend other parents bring their kids. It’s really good.”
The Anaheim Police Department has assigned two full-time staffers to C4K. Dozens of officers volunteer as youth mentors. Thanks to help from a local charity, C4K recently moved into a new building near Lincoln Elementary School.
Innovation and success
In addition to the Jr. Cadet program, officers interact with the neighborhood kids in the C4K Community Services Vehicle. The yellow VW Bus has a 3,000-watt deejay booth complete with a full stage, LED lighting, wireless microphones, colorful tall logo flags and a big screen plasma TV. This mobile entertainment platform is popular with the kids, and helps spread positive messages.
C4K’s Board of Directors consists of representatives from the Anaheim City School District, the Anaheim Union High School District, the Anaheim City Council, Disneyland, Clean City, and numerous local businesses. The YMCA and Boys and Girls Club and Downtown Youth Center are also partners.
Working together, the community partners have made a significant impact on overall crime prevention – and helped thousands of children become better citizens.