FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Five cadets enrolled in the Camp Shelby Youth Challenge program are now behind bars and facing burglary charges after a weekend incident.
"Sunday they had a total of 27 that walked off, four of them were found by the youth challenge people and the other 23 we tried to help them locate, and I think all have been accounted for at this time," said Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee.
According to Forrest County Sheriff's Department investigators, a group of cadets in the program allegedly broke into a facility on the Forrest County Agricultural school campus.
"They got into the concession stand and did some damage and stole some product down there," said McGee.
Camp Shelby officials confirm that the five people facing criminal charges have been since removed from the volunteer program that generally has an average of 260 enrolled.
"I have a duty to the public to protect them from these kids that are going to break into cars and try to steal them, and break into their houses, steal their cell phones and do that type of business while they are out there, so we try to locate them and notify youth challenge that we have got them and where they are," said McGee.
Of the five arrested, Brandon Langley, 18, is charged as an adult, and four others are charged as juveniles, and all await their initial appearance.
According to Sheriff McGee the department generally responds to three or four calls a year dealing with walk-off cadets.
"Not every one of the programs has this problem, none of them have ever had the magnitude of this problem," said McGee.
McGee stated that anytime there is a major crime, or more pressing issues going on in the county, the citizens of the county are his main responsibility.
The volunteer military-based training and education program focuses on personal development through different avenues, and also gives students a chance to earn their GED.
Camp Shelby officials stated it (walk-offs) has not been an issue in the past, but that people everywhere are going to test their limits, and that's no different here, it's just more visible under the circumstances. Officials also stated that they do often work with the sheriff's department, and after a cadet is missing for 30 minutes, authorities are notified.
When asked why authorities are notified, if the program is strictly a volunteer basis, Camp Shelby officials stated that it is their due diligence to notify authorities since they (Camp Shelby) have accepted responsibility for the cadets well being.
At any point cadets have the ability to leave the volunteer program, however cadets under the age of 18 either have to sign out, or have a parent sign them out, with the proper people being notified.