Freeze, kid! A Sheriff’s deputy is giving you a ticket.
But you’ll like this one. San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies are are issuing tickets to children for good deeds.
School resource officers and community service officers are joining the deputies on the lookout for kids who are wearing safety equipment like helmets or seatbelts, being helpful or demonstrating a caring or respectful attitude toward others –and they are not giving out warnings first.
It’s called “Operation Chill” and children and teens can earn a “ticket” for a small Slurpee at any participating 7-Eleven store.
“They are nervous at first because they see a uniform (officer) getting out of a vehicle,” said Caesar Perez, Sheriff Community Service Officer , but that changes once they understand they are being rewarded. “The smiles on the kids’ faces really are a good thing. I wish they had this when I was a kid.”
After getting their free Slurpee ticket, the child will often start a conversation with the deputy about the equipment or vehicle, said Perez who works out of the Poway station.
The dialogue and trust is the big payoff for law enforcement, especially in communities where law enforcement is not viewed in a positive light.
“Some youth have a bad opinion of law enforcement and this gives us an opportunity to show them a different side to what we do; a little bit of positive enforcement,” said Kristina Nehls, crime prevention specialist in Vista. “We do a lot of good stuff.”
Children can even learn to be a good witness as a result of the connection with deputies. At least once or twice, it has led a child or teenager to report a crime to deputies, Nehls said.
In Ramona, deputies carry the tickets and junior deputy stickers and children run up to them and ask for them, said Barbara Wallace, crime prevention specialist.
“It leads to a good positive relationship,” Wallace said.
Perez said he often approachs children when they are with their parents, so the parents understand the program. He’ll spot someone doing a good thing and walk up to them and begin a conversation that might start with, “I see you’re riding your bicycle and wearing a helmet.”
Recently, he gave out a ticket to a boy who was helping his parents carry groceries, he said. It’s all about reinforcing good behavior.
As for parents, he hopes they will help reinforce the idea that a child should approach a deputy or officer if they are in trouble or need help.
“We’re here to help,” Perez said.
The “Operation Chill” partnership between law enforcement and 7-Eleven started in 1995, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has participated for several years now. Nationwide, more than 12 million coupons have been distributed to law enforcement agencies.