School: Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School “Phantoms Over Crime,” Pinellas Park, FL
Advisor: Officer Griffiths
Youth Patrols have been an essential part of building bridges between youth, adults and law enforcement. It was thought that the only way to effectively address crime and violence in schools was if both youth and adults shared common interests and concerns. Together, they could then create solutions on how to decrease crime in their schools.
Many schools in Florida were facing an increase in theft, illegal drugs and truancy. They were also seeing the trend of school shootings taking place in other areas and knew it was time to put some prevention programs in place to deal with this phenomenon. Hillsborough, Pinellas, Broward and St. Lucie Counties voted to have a Youth Crime Watch group in every school in their respective counties. Youth Patrols through YCW were becoming popular and successful. On the average, there was a 40% drop in crime including breaking up a car theft ring and plans to bomb a school.
The Patrol program was coordinated under the School Resource Officer (SRO) program for Hillsborough/Pinellas County. This was a wonderful opportunity to have youth and law enforcement working together to make their school safer. The SRO was also the perfect mentor to train youth in the various skills they would need to become a successful Youth Patrol member.
Over the years, groups have developed different forms and formats for their Youth Patrols, but most have a similar training format. The students themselves have praised the basic training format:
- What is crime?
- How does it affect you?
- How do you assess problems in your school?
- Brainstorm solutions to those problems.
- Learn observation skills.
- Two-way radio/communication skills
- Youth Patrols – “Do Not Engage. They Report.”
This is where Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School becomes unique. Over the last few years, this school has not only completed the basic training but also invited guest speakers for talks, donated money, and coordinated fundraisers, school-wide PSAs and an anti-bullying Poster Contest.
The Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School Patrol Group has done exceptionally in branding their name, “The Phantoms.” They are well known in their community as the “Phantoms Over Crime.” As one student said, “Even though you can’t see them, they are always there… watching.”
The group has a school committee that the SRO/Advisor Officer Griffiths is a part of, ensuring that the Youth Patrol receives up-to-date information at the beginning of each day. As a result, communication with teachers who have Youth Patrol students in their class has increased dramatically. Students from all grade levels and ethnicities are represented in the Patrols.
At the end of each school year, members elect their future officers and create a timeline of events for the coming year. When they return to school, they are able to immediately start following through with their plan. This has given them the ability to do more activities in a given year and has increased recruitment to the point where there is now a waiting list to join the “Phantoms Over Crime.”
Morgan Fitzgerald’s Youth Patrol runs automatically without a hitch. The group assigns schedules, locations and sends emails to teachers. Each student scheduled signs out their walkie-talkie and proceeds to their designated location. There are always two youth together working a location. They are also responsible for signing back in and returning to class at the proper time. They use t-shirts and polos with their Phantom logo so all students are able to identify them on patrol if help is needed.
The overall result, which we think the program is partially responsible for, is that Morgan Fitzgerald went from a “D” school to a “B” school over the past few years.
Morgan Fitzgerald has 18 Core Group members and 25 expanded group members, and now has a waiting list of students who want to join the group. With all of this interest, they are able to complete multiple activities and at the same time increase their exposure in the school and community. Because of their success, other SROs came to visit Morgan’s events and meetings. Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School has spawned the start of three more Patrols in the 2011-12 school year.