APD holds back-to-school program in North Austin

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and Photojournalist DENNIS THOMAS

kvue.com

Posted on August 6, 2013 at 5:38 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 6 at 5:41 PM

AUSTIN -- As unbelievable as it sounds, summer is almost over. Austin students head back to school in just a few weeks.

The Austin Police Department is helping some kids get ready for the upcoming school year and letting them know officers will be there for them.

Usually when seven-year-old Nathan Reina sees police in his North Austin neighborhood, "I think that there's a crime,” he said.

Tuesday instead of solving crimes, APD officers built a bond with the youngest members of the community.

“We've got soccer games going on. We've got basketball games going on,” said APD Senior Officer Clint Dixon. 

“They're making a great job,” Reina said. “They have a lot of fun things for us.”

APD’s North District representatives hosted a back-to-school event for dozens of children and their families. It was a chance for the kids to meet officers and see that they're people too.

“Children are given an idea of what the police are early on in a home setting and a police car. Somebody gets out wearing a gun and a badge, can be intimidating to a child,”  Officer Dixon said.  “We're here to protect them, to serve them. We're here to help them, and they can feel free to come to us.”

Teachers from nearby Walnut Creek Elementary were also on hand to provide books to the kids.

The back-to-school event is one part of APD's Restore Rundberg initiative. Restore Rundberg is a revitalization project funded by a three-year, $1 million U.S. Department of Justice grant. The mission is to improve the quality of life, health, and safety of those living and working in the Rundberg neighborhood.

“When someone's growing up and they're seeing the police are there to read with them, play sports with them, as they get older they're going to be more prone to choose the right decision and go the right route,” said APD Senior Officer Rafael Kianes.

That's a lesson Nathan's mother Angelica wants her son to remember.

“I've been living here for four years now and the crime here is very high, so this idea for me is great,” she said. “Hopefully in the future he's not going to get in trouble.”

This is the first year APD has done the back-to-school program in the Rundberg neighborhood. This year they'll also have officers mentoring students in the area's elementary, middle and high schools.

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