“The concept is for police to engage with youth in areas where young people congregate during the summer,” said department spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn. “The CAP differs from the unstaffed open space and sports facilities throughout the county. It provides positive options for youth in their own neighborhoods — and in locations where crime tends to increase in the summer, including near shopping centers, apartment complexes, footpaths and tot lots — under the supervision of police and on a drop-in basis.”
In previous years, CAP had been held once a week in the Oakland Mills Village Center, where the police department’s satellite office is located. But beginning in 2011, the department — through a partnership with Columbia Association — brought its trailer full of sports gear, games and video game equipment down the road to the neighborhood center and swimming pool at Talbott Springs.
CAP will be in Talbott Springs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Monday through August 13. On other weekdays, the program goes to a community center in Jessup, a church in Long Reach, a community center in Laurel and the library in Owen Brown. There is no CAP program during the week of July 23-27.
On one Monday in July, a handful of youth joined some of the department’s school resource officers and youth services officers, a couple of them playing video games inside the neighborhood center, others playing basketball outside or jumping into the pool.
The officers are able to build a rapport with the youth, who see the officers out of uniform and in circumstances far different than when they might typically see police.
It also gives the kids something to do — an idea they quickly latch onto.
“Once one or two kids come down and see they can get passes to the swimming pool and then come up and play PlayStation or Xbox, they pass word to their friends,” said Ofc. Rick Cumby, the school resource officer at nearby Oakland Mills High School.
“Next thing we know, we get a whole large group,” he said. “The more, the better.”