A ‘PAL’ to kids: Cops reach out to children

The Brooklyn Paper

With the summer months around the corner, the 67th Precinct’s community youth police officer, Tanya Barry, is beginning to shift gears.

From September to June, the kids are in school eight hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., but when summer comes they are on the street 24 hours a day seven days a week unless they’re in some kind of program, she explained.

“So that [summer] gives them idle time and free time to think about things to do and to get in trouble, and if parents are at work, many may not be supervised,” said Barry. “So there’s more chances to get in trouble and that’s why we have the implemented organized play in an organized area with the PAL (Police Athletic League) program.”

Barry said this year the PAL will run a softball program from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at Paerdegat Park on Farragut Road between East 42nd Street and Albany Avenue for local youths ages 9-17.

The program will have the local kids competing against children who live in other police precincts and eventually there will be a “best of Brooklyn” tournament, she said.

Barry, an eight-year police veteran, feels especially close to the area youth having grown up in the tight-knit, but hard-scrabble streets of East Flatbush.

“I like working with the borderline kids who are not sure of themselves, especially between 11-13. I try to help them make better decisions,” said Barry.

“When you speak to them they want freedom. They want freedom from their parents., They want freedom from school. They think there’s a better thing out there for them to do, so I tell them, ‘Okay, you want freedom. You want to make adult decisions. Then what do you want to do about your life?’”

Barry said some may see a possible alternative in joining a gang, and she helps them think out what that means and brings up the comparison to having a job and joining a gang.

“If you take a gang and you’re 20 years old, how can a gang give you benefits and a car, and I compare the two,” said Barry.

“The gang is giving you nothing but negativity. You’re still not getting a car and the money, when you get it, you have to give to the boss of the gang, but when you get a job you spend the money as you feel free,” she added.

Barry said every child speaks a little differently based on their personality and that she also speaks to parents, as their children mature into adolescents.

That’s a time when a lot of kids want to entertain friends and find girls, and many parents find it hard to let loose with their kids, she said.

“I tell the parents to try to remember when they were kids and turn them back to those days, and show them better things to do,” she said.

Barry said that during the school year, she spends more time in the schools and doing home visits, where she mediates sometimes with borderline kids and their parents.

“There are different things for some reason that kids don’t want to tell their parents, so therefore I try to sit them down and speak to both the parents and the child to try to help them work better together


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