Police fundraising event aims to keep kids out of crime

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- Hundreds of people wore their best western outfits for a good cause Saturday.

It was the Police Athletic League of Jacksonville's Sheriff's Round-Up.

Sheriff John Rutherford said the PAL is working on prevention, mentoring and education to prep kids to stay out of crime when they become young adults.

JSO Lt. Mathew Nemeth, who is the PAL's Executive Director, told FCN he believes Saturday's event will eventually save lives.

Thirteen-year-old, Paul Gordon, is a 7th grade student in Jacksonville. He's part of the PAL's teen leadership program and said he sees police officers as role models.

FCN asked him what he's heard people his age say about police.

"They say they don't like them," Gordon said. "They don't trust them."

According to the Police Athletic League, the vast majority of the program's participants live in areas that have higher poverty rates, higher rates of unemployment, teen pregnancy and high school drop-outs. As well as lowest average median incomes.

"Many of the times that these children are seeing the police, they see them in a negative light," Nemeth said.

The PAL is working to change that perception some youth of the First Coast have about police.

"And showing them the other side of police work," Lt. Nemeth explained. "That we're actually there to help the community."

Nemeth said they're not only helping through words, but also actions.

Nemeth said full time officers go into classrooms three times a week to help kids with homework and teach lessons.

He said there is career development and that children are drawn to the program with sports.

Fourteen year-old Nicholas Countryman is also on that leadership program. Countryman plays football and basketball through the program.

"Police are not, like, bad people," Countryman said. "Or people that just try to put you in jail every day. They are people that are trying to lead you in the right direction."

The challenges are real for the PAL. In early March, two teens were shot by an unknown suspect who walked up to them while standing on a Brentwood sidewalk.

Sheriff Rutherford said the PAL is working on prevention and mentoring to prep the kids to stay out of crime when they grow up to become young adults.

"The best part is, it works," Rutherford said. "Our juvenile crime is down. Overall, our crime is down. Violent crime went up 1% last year."

Nemeth said the event, with proceeds going to help PAL children, could eventually save lives.

"Without question," Nemeth said. "You'll never know statistically, how many people didn't go to prison. How many people didn't die. How many people didn't go down the wrong road."

Nemeth said the PAL hoped to raise more than $50,000. The final numbers won't be available until Monday, but the proceeds will go to help kids in the PAL program.

For more information about the Police Athletic League of Jacksonville, call (904) 854-6555 or go to jaxpal.com


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