“ If our voice does not remain silent in the presence of a crime and we report it, we will be reducing it that is what we teach students. Joel Meza
When it comes to safety, each day more and more students are becoming the ears and eyes of their schools. Students are taking care of one another and putting crime prevention into practice within their classrooms, in the cafeterias or any other place in the school.
The students are developing awareness that every security matter that happens to them in their surroundings is a problem that concerns them and that their voices will be heard when they report a crime.
This is the philosophy of the program known as Youth Crime Watch (YCW), that has been in Miami Dade County for the past 37 years and has been available to all schools. Its objective is to help young people, working together with the Department of School Police, to develop efficient strategies for safe school campuses.
“We focus on elementary schools because we believe that prevention should be taught as soon as possible. However, there are middle and high schools that have the program,” said Joel Meza, Director of Education and YCW Coordinator for the schools.
YCW, whose professionals are certified by the State of Florida in the prevention of crime, is part of the nonprofit organization known as Citizens’ Crime Watch that was created 41 years ago when the community became interested in helping the police with the fight against law violations.
Today several of the schools have implemented clubs where students teach other students about different issues that affect children. The students focus not only on educating through presentations on bullying, weapons, drugs, the process to report a crime and cyber security, among other topics; but also throughout the school year, they participate in campaigns, activities, events and prevention messages.
For Meza, students involved in the program develop leadership skills by allowing them to get involved in the safety of their schools, encouraging them with positive social pressure to report a crime, changing their attitudes and also educating them on the topics of prevention, thus providing them with tools to disseminate education among their classmates.
How to implement a club at the school?
• A teacher, counselor, security monitor or school police officer contacts a YCW counselor to participate in the program.
• The representative of YCW trains, step by step, the adult who will be in charge of the club, and he or she will be known as the YCW Advisor within the school.
• The Advisor, in turn, will select students to be members of the club. YCW coordinators will show students the goals, objectives, responsibilities and benefits of the program. They also teach them how to present to their peers the different topics on crime prevention.