Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kids Fight School Crime from the Hornet's Nest Peer Patrol Aims to Guard Youth Safety

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kids Fight School Crime from the Hornet's Nest Peer Patrol Aims to Guard Youth Safety

Article excerpt

Glenn Kitchens, a member of the Yulee Middle School student patrol, stands at attention outside the main doors to the school.

It's a cold day, but Glenn doesn't have time to complain as swarms of students change classes and pass by his post. He's watching to make sure none of them are trying to cut class, fight, smoke or use drugs. He's also on the lookout for kids who just need some help.

The 13-year-old is one of 18 middle-schoolers who volunteers to serve on the Hornet Patrol youth crime watch. Members of Youth Crime Watch of America, a national crime prevention association, assist school officials with crime prevention.

In other parts of Florida, the program has reduced in-school crime significantly. In Miami, the program reduced crime by 40.5 percent at Braddock High, Miami-Dade County's largest school.

In Batesville, Miss., the program is credited with stopping the gang-related killing of three students. And in Nassau County, the program has cut down on problems like smoking in the restrooms.

Sharyl Wood, the principal of Yulee Middle School, said underage smoking used to drive her crazy, but the Hornet Patrol has changed that.

"Ten years ago, it was a real problem. Now, students will see and tell. It's a different climate," she said. "The Hornet Patrol serves as a reminder to other kids to behave. They create a community where there is a sense of good citizenship."

The Hornet Patrol is chosen from all segments of the school's population. Any child who doesn't have behavior problems can join. Deputy Tracey Hamilton of the Nassau County Sheriff's Department oversees the program as a school resource officer from her on-campus office. Patrol members say it's cool to belong and they are proud of the job they do.

"I honestly think we help cut down on crime," Glenn said. "I believe this school is a safe place. I think the program is a good idea. It's good to have kids helping out."

Glenn said he sometimes gets teased about being a snitch, but only by his friends. …

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