With school starting next week, now seemed like a good time to re-introduce one of our most important officers: our School Resource Officer (SRO), and to remind everyone how important it is to keep our kids busy after school.
Officer Vince Morse is our SRO. He and his police dog, Bugsy, work hard to keep local schools safe. Officer Morse has been with the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) since 2006, and this is his third year as the department’s SRO. Bugsy has been with the department since 2010, and is a fully certified narcotics detection dog. Officer Morse and Bugsy continue a long tradition of collaboration between UPD and the Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD), one that has been in existence for more than 20 years.
The SRO program began in 1992 to help reduce gang fights and other unsafe activity at the high school. Today, the SRO program continues with vital support from UUSD school board members who generously allocated $90,000 this year towards the cost of having an officer dedicated to school safety.
Typically, the SRO handles close to 1,000 calls for police service a year, or about five to six calls per school day. These calls involve everything from lost or stolen backpacks and cell phones, to bullying, to fights on campus, and sometimes more serious crimes.
Officer Morse works closely with school administrators and principles, performing searches based on suspicious activities and discouraging illegal behavior on campus. He makes sure he and Bugsy are highly visible during breaks and lunch periods and patrols school neighborhoods before and after school to ensure everyone drives safely near the school. In addition to Ukiah High School, Officer Morse responds to calls at Pomolita Middle School and Ukiah’s public elementary schools.
While teachers, school staff, and police officers safeguard children during the school day, it’s important to think about how children spend time after school, because according to crime statistics, that is when children are at highest risk to become victims of violent crimes.
While many kids with time on their hands make good choices, some don’t. We’d all like to think our children won’t succumb to peer pressure or curiosity, but filling their time with positive activities reduces opportunities for risky behavior. Studies show that kids who do not participate in afterschool activities are nearly three times more likely to use marijuana, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or engage in unsafe sexual activity.
So, what positive activities can we find in Ukiah?
One of our best opportunities for school-aged children is the Boys and Girls Club of Ukiah. Not only is the Club an affordable option, it offers an abundance of opportunities for kids to play, learn, and make new friends.
The Boys and Girls Club of Ukiah prides itself on being a safe place to learn and grow, all while having fun. It only costs $30 dollars a year to become a member. That includes an entire year of afterschool supervision, mentoring, homework assistance, and daylong supervision during the summer.
And getting your kids to the Boys and Girls Club of Ukiah after school couldn’t be easier.
Each year, UPD donates $15,000 of Drug and Education Asset Forfeiture Funds to provide afterschool busing from each UUSD school to the Boys and Girls Club.
This means you can drop your child off at school each morning and pick them up at the Boys and Girls Club each evening, knowing that every day after school they have safe transportation, mentoring, homework assistance, and fun and positive afterschool supervision. That’s much better than worrying about our children being latch-key kids, home alone.
Remember, our SRO and all Ukiah police officers are here to help you and your children. If you have questions or concerns about school safety, please ask us.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.