CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Three locations in Charlotte area offering kids free access to the YMCA in an effort to build relationships between teens and police officers.
When Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts first got into office in 2015 she said, “The whole idea is to raise awareness to begin to coordinate better in filling the gaps for out of school times for our youth."
In 2010 it cost $7,348 every time a teen was arrested. In 2015 it cost $122,445 to keep a teen in a detention center, according to data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
More than 1,500 crimes in the Charlotte area, including assaults, rapes, and murder, involve a victim or suspect under 16-years-old.
"If kids are involved in something positive, they can't be involved in something negative at the same time," said Lt. Celestine Ratliffe of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
A new program called Summer of Opportunity is the perfect outlet.
"We really want to create a safe space for the students,” said Symone McGee, who manages high school initiatives at the YMCA. “We know our city hasn't been the best on the national scene for relationships with our community and the police department."
Every Friday and Saturday for the next seven weeks three Charlotte YMCA's will open their doors to registered teens ages 13-18 including:
- Stratford Richardson YMCA in west Charlotte
- McCrorey Family YMCA in northwest Charlotte
- Simmons YMCA in east Charlotte
Each night for three hours the kids can chat with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers, play basketball, use the pool, the gym, a gaming room, do arts and crafts and eat. Everything is free.
"I'm here to be a brotherly figure toward everyone," said Quentin Norman, YMCA camp counselor.
Norman is currently a student at Central Piedmont Community College. He says he can relate to the nearly 1,000 teens joining the summer program and hopes to help guide them on a path for success.
"I don’t know everything, but I do know some things and I can try to use my experience to help someone else," Norman said.
The program still needs more people like Norman. Anyone interested in volunteering or registering your child click here.