It was on April 8th when the Evansville Police Department announced a joint venture with the EVSC to help kids make better choices called Choose Not to Lose. The most visible signs of the program are the unmistakeable program Jeep vehicles assigned to each of the Evansville high schools. School might be out, but the Choose Not to Lose summer day camp for kids is in full swing and this camp is like no other you have seen. The camp is being held on the grounds of the FOP lodge and is divided into six separate three day camps every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the summer.

Evansville police chief Billy Bolin says the purpose of the camp is an extension of the philosophy of the program about kids making better choices and to give them a first hand look at law enforcement and how it works. Bolin says, "We want the kids to not only make better choices, but help them form a partnership with law enforcement to build and nurture a mutual trust and bond that will benefit both."

I had the pleasure of seeing the camp in action, which gives the campers an opportunity to learn about bike safety, crime scene investigation and firearms training on THE COOLEST video game simulator you have ever seen. "It's all about teaching the participants good decision making skills in both pressure and non-pressure situations. We want to teach them the importance of being able to make decisions quickly and for the right reasons", Bolin says.

The crime scene investigation involves putting the campers into a situation, in this case a robbery, where they have to investigate the scene, look for clues, collect evidence and hunt down their man.

These kids are so into the whole process and according to instructor, Sgt. Brian Hildebrand, "They hate when the day comes to an end. Today was the last day for this particular camp and the kids absolutely do not want to leave."

Bolin explained that the FOP has hosted day camps for many years, but usually in conjunction with area Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA, area churches and other youth focused organizations. This is the first year for these organized activities supervised and taught by the officers of the EPD.

Bolin envisioned the camp as part of the overall program, but cites Sgt. Paul Kirby for "taking the concept and running with it to create what you see here." Most of the instructors consist of the  EPD school resource officers, crime prevention officers and some juvenile detectives.

The camps for this summer are full. Next year's camp will be primarily for area 5th and 6th graders and registration packets will be sent home with the students near the end of the next school year.

The entire program might be one of the best and most interactive programs for kids and law enforcement that I have ever seen. It takes programs like D.A.R.E. to a completely different level that will be nothing but beneficial for the kids, the cops and the community as a whole because it is a true partnership in every sense of the word.

Part of growing up is making choices...some good, some bad, but the best choice for your kids now is to Choose Not to Lose. Check out some photos of the camp below.

TSMEvansville's Choose Not to Lose album on Photobucket

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