Two members of the Palmetto Bay Village Policing Unit, Officers Peter Judge and Patience Glasko, received weekly awards in early February from Citizens Crime Watch of Miami-Dade County for their work with children at Coral Reef Elementary. In 2012 they jointly won the Youth Crime Watch Advisor of the Year award.
Both are pleased but believe that what is more important is the validation of the work they are doing.
“I don’t think it’s just being personally recognized,” said Officer Judge. “I think it lends credence to the entire program as a whole. It just says what we’re doing is good.”
The Youth Crime Watch program has the officers currently meeting with students at Coral Reef Elementary for one hour a week and they hope it may expand to other schools.
“Every week it’s a new topic,” Officer Glasko explained in a Feb. 7 interview. “We’re going to get into the middle schools like Southwood. They’re interested. I was there last night and they’re interested and eager to get the ball rolling.”
Topics have covered everything from personal safety to an overview of police procedures such as crime scene photography, latent fingerprinting, casting shoe impressions in dirt, even the dangers posed by speeding drivers. “We had our motor units come out and we let kids run radar in front of the school, the laser and the Doppler so they got to see how that works,” Officer Judge said.
“We’ve had two of our detectives here talk to them about what general investigation does as far as handling burglaries or other crimes.”
The sessions, which are conducted in an ageappropriate way, have covered Internet safety, teasing and bullying, and how to respond to strangers who may have bad intentions.
“We tell them, if an adult approaches you asking for help, that’s not your job to help them,” Officer Glasko said.
Besides making the students more aware of potential crimes in their neighborhoods, the program is intended to improve communications between youngsters and the police.
“My biggest complaint with the kids is, they’re in the grocery store and the parent says, ‘If you don’t stop crying I’m going to tell the police to take you away,’” Officer Judge said. “That’s the worst thing you want to tell them about the police, because if they’re in trouble they’re not going to go to that officer. So what we’re doing is showing them that we’re normal people. We have families and kids like them. Our profession is law enforcement. We’re here to help, no matter what the problem is.”
Part of the program involves answering questions from students who are clearly influenced by the television shows they watch, which rarely match the reality of police work.
“Like they’ll show one officer in any of those TV shows and he just does every aspect of the investigation,”
Officer Glasko said. “It’s not accurate. We have a few people who are always asking ‘What if you find a dead body?’ I think it’s because of what they watch.” Officer Judge said that the most important part of their work with students will not yield results until later.
“When you’re dealing with kids you’re not going to really see the outcome today,” Judge said. “These kids now are 10 or 11 years old, so you won’t see the effect we’ve had on them for eight to 10 years. When they’ve finished high school and gone on to college, what their perception is of the police, how they become an adult.”
Both Judge and Glasko are Certified School Resource Officers, and besides the Youth Crime Watch program they are working in the Officer Friendly program, radKIDS program and anti-drug program — DARE. It’s personal as well as professional for them.
“We both have kids,” Officer Judge said. “There’s no dollar amount you can put on kids’ safety.”
Judge also appreciates the support from the village and community.
“The thing about the programs is obviously getting support from Commander Truit and the village council and village manager,” Judge said. “We do get grant money to run a lot of them, but some of it does come from internal funds, so having the manager and council behind that is very positive.”
Officer Glasko wanted to stress that fact that there are important free services available that village residents aren’t taking advantage of yet.
“We have a lot to offer,” Glasko said. “The car seat program — we got training in child passenger seating and we haven’t really had anyone come to utilize that free service. We’ll come and inspect the car seat, make sure your kid is in the right car seat and instruct the person how to put it in. We put that information out there, even going to all of the daycares, saying if you’ll just host us for the day we’ll set up a tent and do this. That’s just one thing.”
For more information call the Palmetto Bay Village Policing Unit at 305-278-4001.