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Public safety director urges community cooperation during spring break

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By Megan Trent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 20, 2015) – For many students across the Hoosier state, the end of school Friday marked the beginning of spring break. Many other districts will begin their spring breaks in the coming weeks, and for many kids and teens that means up to two weeks of free time.

Indianapolis Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs says making sure kids find something positive to do in their communities is always a priority for the Department of Public Safety. Riggs says, through community conversations he has been able to talk with hundreds of young people about the challenges extended breaks can bring.

“After we spoke for a while, they opened up and told us that when school is not in session, they have nothing to do,” says Riggs. “They don’t feel safe in many cases, and they’re hungry, because the only food they get is when they’re in school. So you put all that together and you look at a long break, where there’s not a lot of food, not a lot of things to do that’s constructive, and that is a recipe for some type of issue, whether it’s an individual issue or a community issue.”

Last weekend, several teens were arrested for fighting outside of Circle Center Mall. That’s exactly the type of situation Riggs hopes to avoid.

“We’ve seen groups of youth almost every weekend; they gather and sometimes police have to get involved, unfortunately.”

He says parents can help by holding their children accountable. Everyone, including teens, says Riggs, can help by reporting safety concerns to police immediately.

“If you see something getting out of hand, call police immediately so we can come in and make sure that everyone is safe. We would hate for someone to lose their life or to be injured because of a break in the school season, which should be a time that people should be enjoying being outside and doing things with family and friends.”

Riggs says many area community centers will have their gyms open to kids and teens over the break, but DPS would also like to work with area churches and organizations as they’ve done over past holiday breaks.

“We’ve had a few churches that have stepped up during the holidays and other times. We’ve helped with security. We’ve helped them financially in some cases, and we’re willing to do that again. So if there’s a church that is willing to do that, but they don’t have the money or they’re worried about safety and security, please give us a call, says Riggs. “I know IMPD is interested in providing security. The Marion County Sheriff’s office, John Layton has agreed.”

If individuals would also like to volunteer their time or funds, Riggs says people are always welcome to email the Department of Public Safety at dps@indy.gov.

“This is about working together as a community,”  says Riggs.

There are four Indianapolis area  Boys and Girls Clubs that will be open during spring break, and all children between the ages of five and 18 are welcome. For the next two weeks, the Boys and Girls Club will be open from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Most weeks they are open from 3:00 until 7:00 p.m. for children between the ages of the five and 12. They remain open until 9:00 p.m. for 13 to 18 year-olds, Monday through Thursday.

“If kids aren't already members, that’s okay. They can still come and sign up,” says Boys and Girls Club Unit Director Alexis Siamas. “It’s $10, and that $10 is actually for a membership for the whole year.”

Siamas says having a safe place for kids to go during spring break where they are able to receive healthy meals is important. Kids and teens are also able to take field trips, enjoy arts and crafts, receive tutoring and play sports.

“Having two weeks of no school means no place for kids to go for a lot of parents. A lot of parents work, they have things going on. Two weeks for kids at home - that’s a lot of time for kids to get in trouble or find other things to do that aren’t as productive as coming to the Boys and Girls Club. So we think that’s important, just to offer a safe place for them to come.”

People can find out more about participating Boys and Girls Club locations by vising BCGIndy.org or by calling 317-920-4700.