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DeKalb Summer Camp Helps Cut University Village Arrests In Half

Jenna Dooley

One DeKalb summer camp significantly reduced crime in one area of town.

Camp Power is a free summer program offered to University Village residents at the complex. It’s funded by a community policing grant and other community partners, and the goal is to provide academic tutoring, daily lunch service and other organized activities to child campers.

The camp’s GoFundMe page says 130 children participated in the program in 2014. The number of campers increased by ten the following year.

DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery says the camp initially was created by the police department to help stop the increase in juvenile crime during the summer months within the apartment complex. More than 80 percent of the units are Section 8 subsidized housing, and Lowery says service calls were very high in the complex.

The camp is about to start its third year. It will be run by the area YMCA this year and expand into the town’s Pleasant Street neighborhood with a similar pilot program. Lowery says that area's needs for crime prevention are similar to University Village.

Lowery says crimes like drug offenses in University Village were reduced by about a quarter after Camp Power’s first year. By the end of the second year, he says crime decreased by 40 percent overall, service calls decreased by 13 percent and the number of arrests were cut in half.

“That meant to me those kids and those families saw us not arresting friends, family, other folks in their complex half the time,” Lowery said.

So, Lowery says, the image of the police within that neighborhood begins to change.

“It’s not that the police are coming in there just to arrest people; the police are coming in there to help people,” Lowery said. “And I think that’s really one of the primary goals on the police side, and of course the main goal is to help those kids out.”

Kishwaukee YMCA youth director Lesley Feyerherm says the camp’s founders approached the organization to help make day-to-day camp operations run a little more smoothly.

“You know, we’re trying to keep the heart and soul of Camp Power the same,” Feyerherm said.

Feyerherm says the YMCA involvement also will provide more field trip opportunities for the kids and more supplies for certain activities, like arts and crafts.

Camp Power starts June 20 this year. The Pleasant Street trial program will take place in Liberty Park.

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