LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - School’s out and the fun for students begin but, do you know what your kids are doing this summer?
During the summer months, crime among juveniles is at an all-time high.
Behind the walls of the Laurel Police Department, there's one officer who's dedicated his life to helping a much younger crowd.
“Children just don’t have someone to watch over them,” said Laurel Police Department juvenile officer Lt. Kevin Jackson.
Jackson has been with the force for 30 years and has been a juvenile officer for 10 years.
“I always wanted to be a person that could sit there and help my community,” said Jackson.
Jackson’s peers said he has a genuine love for children. He said on average he deals with almost 800 kids a year. However, he said when summer hits, the uptick in crime rises drastically.
“You see burglary going up, you see a lot of fights going up, and just disorderly conduct,” said Jackson. “I would say crime usually goes up 60 or 70-percent.”
WDAM sat down with a group of teens to hear their take on the issue.
“They have conversations about like shootouts, smoking weed, drinking drinks like alcohol and doing bad behavior like trespassing,” said 8th-grader N’Kisha Smith.
When asked why teens partake in such activities, Jones College student Jeshaiah Stephens said it could be due to problems at home.
“It could be because they don’t have good parental supervision at home or anybody like really supporting them, “said Stephens.
Eleventh-grader Judeah Capers said it all comes down to peer pressure.
“Give in, go with the crowd or be condemned for it,” said Capers. “You’re ostracized for it.”
One of the teens in the group said she never feels pressured and decided to distance herself kids participating in bad behavior.
“They’re not the best group for me,” said Queti Aleah McDonald. “I can do better than that. I wasn’t raised that way.”
Jackson said peer pressure plays a very large role during the summer months.
“I’ve been watching a lot of good kids start to do things the bad kids do because they want to fit in,” said Jackson.
Laurel City leaders said the issue in their community comes from a lack of productive activities for young people during the summer months.
“The truth is we all live in the same world together,” said Ward 1 Councilman Jason Capers. "Those kids who do not have positive people speaking into their life, they’re going to affect the way that your kids live too.
Capers said to help out he started a mentoring program called Brighter Tomorrows. However, he’s not alone when it comes to providing positive activities for children in the community.
“Children need something to do,” said youth pastor JeTuan Stephens.
Stephens is a youth pastor at Christ Church in Laurel and a teacher in Laurel High School’s CTE program. He’s also in charge of 180 Youth Ministry located at Christ Church – a program provided once a week for kids to hang out and fellowship in a structured environment.
“We like to raise up young people in the way they should go,” said Jeshaiah Stephens.
However, despite the programs city leaders and law enforcement said it all boils down to the parents.
“No matter what you say or what kind of excuse you come up with until they turn 18 and become an adult, they are still your children,” said Jackson. “You still have to discipline them and provide for them.”
“Don’t give them a vote,” JeTuan Stephens said. “Make them come to positive things.”
Lt. Jackson said with more support from parents and the community as a whole, change can be made…one child at a time.
If you’re interested in getting your child involved with a summer program, you can contact your municipality leaders to see what’s available in your community.