DeWitt P.D. Stresses Online Education
The DeWitt Police Department has made technology-related crimes a key aspect of its youth education program.
Investigator Leroy Andrews, who has been with the department for nine years and was appointed youth services coordinator last July, said he is committed to keeping the youth services programs relevant in the face of constant innovation.
“Criminals in one way or another are educating themselves, so it is my job to stay one step ahead of them,” said Andrews, who has a stepson and a son. “I believe teaching children and parents is one way to prevent something very bad from happening.”
Police Sgt. John Anton, former youth services coordinator, spent more time on issues related to online youth crimes than on any others over the last three years. He was reassigned in July.
“For many parents, it can be tough to screen what their kids are doing on the Internet, or on their phones,” Anton said. “Parents need to get tech-savvy.”
With smart phones commonplace by middle school and web cams installed on nearly every laptop sold today, there are many ways for young people to get themselves into trouble.
“The consequence of the cyber stuff is so far reaching, and kids don’t think about that,” Anton said. “Once they put stuff on the Internet, it’s on there forever. Sure, you can take it off, but it may already have been downloaded thousands of times.”
Anton, father of two sons, said he advises parents to be straightforward and consistent when addressing cyber bullying and other online issues, such as the consequences of “sexting.”
Parents, Anton said, are often shocked to discover that their children are using their electronic devices inappropriately. He tells parents to set rules for use of electronic devices—and stick to them. Limit the use of computers and phones in their children’s bedrooms—pull the batteries right out in the evening if necessary.
Pre-teens and teens are often overeager to share information online. “The pictures and videos they take at parties are a problem,” Anton said. “Something that seems really funny on Friday night could be a lot less so once the photos are sent to everyone at school.”
Police are increasingly urging students and parents to take cyber crimes seriously, because they can lead to arrests.
“Basically every electronic device has an electronic fingerprint,” Anton said.
Andrews, who worked part time with the Office of Youth Services prior to his appointment, said he is committed to keeping technology-related crime a priority for the department.
The department offers 22 programs on everything from drug abuse to automotive safety for students in first, third, fifth, seventh, eighth and 10th grades. For the past three years, DPD officers have also participated in an annual forum for middle school parents in the Jamesville-DeWitt School District to address cyber issues.
Technology advances have enabled law enforcement services to increase safety. For example, digital fingerprinting and information storing have made it easier for police to store data on children that can be used should they become lost. Last year, the DeWitt Police Department launched a Facebook page to post alerts and safety information.
Andrews is eager to keep the momentum going in DeWitt.
“The town of DeWitt Police Department is a community-based department and we have a great relationship with our residents. I look forward to building on these relationships throughout this school year.”
Working in the schools, Andrews said, “gives me an opportunity to see another side of police work. Knowing I am educating and helping children is very satisfying.”