Cops and Kids summer camp targets at-risk youth

Cops and Kids summer camp targets at-risk youth

(WVUE) - It was a tragic morning in Bridge City after Jefferson Parish Deputies arrested a 15-year-old boy for the death of his younger sister.

Investigators said the teen was handling his gun when he accidentally discharged the weapon, shooting his 14-year-old sibling in the head.

The boy, who faces a charge of negligent homicide, told detectives he had bought the gun for protection.

"That's sad," said Alvin Thomas, who understands that thinking.

Thomas is also 15 years old, and he's been in the juvenile detention center three times. He admits that he has also carried a gun.

"To be safe. You can't trust nobody. Everybody be having guns, and everybody wants to kill somebody so," Thomas said.

Thomas is one of more than a dozen kids getting an important life lesson as part of an at-risk youth program.

"We started to see a disconnect between a lot of youth in the neighborhood and police officers," Sgt. Dustin Vinet said.

The four-week program is called Cops and Kids, and it's fully funded by the Gretna Police Department. Officers recruited 34 at-risk youth in an attempt to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement.

"We're teaching them some team-building skills like how to work with other campers, so as they go through life they have the ability to work as a team," said Lt. James Price.

"I think men are very important. A lot of these kids don't have fathers," said actor and mentor Ameer Baraka, who works with the kids every day at camp.

In between fun activities, like fishing, they're given life lessons.

"These kids are really open. They're aggressive kids, but I sense that they're really open to change," Baraka said.

"If you were in the street, you'd probably be in trouble right now. You get to do stuff you've never done before," Thomas said.

Mentors and police officers with the Cops and Kids program hope they can influence youth to stop carrying guns and stay out of trouble.

"One of the classes that we do is conflict resolution and teach them that there's other ways to resolve conflict than going to get a gun," Vinet said.

Thomas said the police officers and mentors have changed his attitude, and he's thankful for the program.

"We let them know that decisions you make now could affect you for the rest of your life. We're just trying to teach them to make good decisions," said Price.

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