LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Lakeland school resource officers are wrapping up their second summer spent in the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhood. The extra push to put police and children on the same team is proving effective, according to the Lakeland Police Department.
Two years ago it was tense around 2nd Street and Jewel Avenue. During the summer of 2013 this neighborhood of Lakeland saw four shootings. Police witnessed children heading toward that path as early as 7 and 8 years old. “They’ve already been exposed to some of that culture and that’s what we’re trying to break,” Sgt. Richard Rose said.
Now kids say officers make them feel loved. “She comes around, and she cares,” one child said of Officer Katina Lewis.
Lewis is a favorite among the kids. The officer says the change of heart is because of simple TLC. “I just take them by the hand and we walk around the neighborhood together. It’s just that time. We play basketball or even football. You give them that sense that somebody does care because these kids don’t get that,” Lewis said.
So now, instead of sending school resource officers to training or mall patrol during the summer, the department has these members focusing on developing relationships in the most troubled areas of Lakeland. There have been no shootings during the past two summers, during which police have maintained a presence.