By Jack Gibson
Arch Street Teen Center recently served as the venue for an event organized by Greenwich Police and multiple community organizations. The idea was to foster healthy relationships between the youth and law enforcement and offer safe and fun way for young people to spend their night.
The event was free and featured many activities for the 7th to 10th graders.
Volleyball, cornhole and a DJ made for a good time, and the free pizza and ice cream truck didn’t seem to hurt either.
“This is just a place to be in a safe environment and have fun with your friends in the summertime,” Greenwich Chief of Police James Heavey said. “It also gives an opportunity for that [younger] group of kids to start meeting our School Resource Officers and have some other positive interactions with police.”
By bolstering their relationship with younger members of the community, the Greenwich Police Department hopes to foster a comfort around law enforcement, leading to a trust that helps them do their job. SROs Fred Reisch and Chris Wallace echoed this sentiment.
“When a lot of the kids show up tonight they’ll know who we are, either from the middle school or the high school level,” said Reisch. “So it’s always nice for them to see a familiar face because it’s part of our bigger job, to break down that barrier and making sure that kids are comfortable with the police.”
The officers use opportunities like the event at the Teen Center to build a positive relationship with the youth through their community involvement. This, however, was not the sole purpose of the event.
The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to affect the younger members of the community and is being pointed to as a factor in an apparent rise in ‘rambunctious’ behavior.
The absence of opportunities to socialize combined with the hit taken by in-person businesses has led to the town’s youth needing more outlets, an issue the Teen Center and other organizations are looking to address.
“There are several organizations that are involved here tonight, and the Teen Center is kind of like a secondary entity that runs year round,” said Teen Center director Kyle Silver. “We want this to be a ‘first event,’ that leads to more summer events that will give students something to do on a weekly basis until school’s back in session.”
Chief Heavey pointed out that lately the hangout area of choice for a lot of young people around town has been outside department stores, simply because the parking lots are lit at night – all the more reason places like the Arch Street Teen Center and those who support it are so important.
Danielle Sittol, from the Youth Services Bureau at Greenwich’s Dept of Human Services said, “We continue to cope with the impact of the disruptions and lack of engagement caused by the pandemic. It is encouraging to be part of the community’s effort to create connections and opportunities for positive interaction for youth. The kids know that their community cares about them.”