By Cynthia M. Jeffries
GUNTOWN – The next time a carload of kids cruises by on state Highway 145 in Guntown, don’t think they are just out having fun. They could be on patrol.
Guntown Police Chief Roger Sanders has formed a youth group to provide extra eyes and ears for his law enforcement officers.
“They see things that I may miss while I’m out,” Sanders said.
The group, formed three months ago and consisting of nine youngsters between the ages of 10 and 20, is not affiliated with the national Crime Stoppers tipsters program. The young people adopted the name “Crime Stoppers” because they want to be known as the ones who helped stop crime in their hometown, Sander said.
The group was Sanders’ brainchild. He said he wanted to offer the young people in the small, northern Lee County town something to do on the weekends.
Sanders first tried to solicit the help of youngsters who had previously been in trouble with law.
“That didn’t work out because I couldn’t get them to come out,” Sanders said.
Then his daughter Melissa said she was willing to help. So she got a couple of her friends, her dad recruited a couple of the neighbors’ children and the town’s two officer’s volunteered their children’s services.
All of the young people are volunteers. The group goes out for hours every Friday and Saturday night. Guntown has a curfew of 11 p.m., but on many occasions, the youngsters are out much later than that.
Right now, the members are catching a ride in Sanders’ patrol vehicle or they grab a ride with Melissa in her car. Sanders said an ideal situation would be to raise more money to buy the group its own vehicle. He is trying to raise money for such a vehicle.
The group is also trying to raise money to buy at least two walkie-talkies. To pay for their uniforms, members sold chances on a chair and got corporate sponsors to buy their dark blue T-shirts emblazoned with the words “YOUTH CRIME STOPPERS.”
The group patrols and checks the town’s few buildings. The youngsters obviously can’t make arrests – they have to call a sworn officer for that.
In the first week, Sanders said his young officers in training helped him make eight arrests.
“When people see a cop car, they straighten up,” said Mac McBrayer, 20. “But they are not going to do that when they see us.”
Ninteen-year-old Melissa Sanders said, “They will just think we are out riding around.”