BURLINGTON, N.C. -- This school year, police officers will be much more common in Burlington schools.
After an alarming increase in violent gang crime this year, police stepped up patrols, made arrests and held community meetings. One of their next steps is to be more visible in schools.
Burlington police say half of the people arrested for violent gang crimes since April were 20 years old or younger and many never graduated from high school. But police won't be going into schools to do surveillance or break-up fights. Instead, they are going to teach.
"Anytime you can build that relationship is what you need to be doing and you can't build a relationship from a car," says Sgt. Wendy Jordan, with Burlington police.
Jordan is working on building a curriculum with Broadview Middle School Principal Brie Butler.
"Giving students more opportunities to see law enforcement as good guys, as guys of support, as people who really are looking out for my benefit, not working against me," Butler said.
Police will be in 15 Burlington schools. School resource officers, or SROs, will do more than they are currently and patrol officers who already work the kids' neighborhoods will make a point to stop in.
Officers will teach a short lesson at least once a week that will vary based on grade. Lessons may include calling 911, teen dating and domestic violence and crime scene investigation. The hope is to reach kids and allow them to form good relationships with police before they have a chance to become a victim or a suspect.
They hope to have the program up and running in the next couple of months.