VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The Valdosta Police Department has joined forces with a variety of organizations and businesses to help keep youth out of trouble, not just during the summer, but all year round.
Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress is working to bridge the gap between youth and law enforcement.
Last year the city saw a major increase in crime among those under the age of 18 and Childress believes it is his and the community's duty to fix it.
"Obviously last year Valdosta and really South Georgia, North Florida got hit pretty hard with what we would consider juvenile crimes," explained Childress.
VPD will have two citizens police academy groups, one for ages 14-17 and another for 11-13-year-olds.
Law enforcement will take the two groups to participate in activities like cops vs kids basketball games or field trips to Wild Adventures.
"We're taking a community approach this summer, more proactive approach in dealing with the juveniles," explained Childress.
The program is designed to work with youths of all kinds, those with a clean record or those who may have come into some trouble.
Childress said the goal is to get all youth on the right track.
"We're trying to divert them from trouble before they get in trouble, it serves the city, it serves law enforcement, it serves our community. No purpose when these kids get in trouble," said Childress.
The main objective is to provide constant, healthy interaction between youth and police all year round.
"The consistency has to be programs throughout the year where they constantly see interaction with law enforcement, a proactive, positive interaction with law enforcement," said Childress.
The Citizens Police Academy is a free program that runs for two weeks, a week per age group.
Applications can be found at the Valdosta Police Department and are due by June 11 with the program starting in early July.