Tony Perrone is happy to see an increased police presence where he works on the south side of Youngstown. But not for the reasons you might think.
Perrone is executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown, and since mid-April, six members of the Youngstown Police Department have been regulars at the club two evenings a week. They’re leading kids ages 10 through 12 in a Badges for Baseball program that teaches baseball fundamentals along with leadership, respect, communications, and other life skills.
Law enforcement agencies and local groups are piloting the program in Youngstown, Canton, and Zanesville this year and next with support from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Created in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice as a juvenile crime prevention initiative, the program now operates in 17 states.
Attorney General Mike DeWine and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. hope to expand the program to other areas depending on the success of the pilot program and availability of funding.
“It’s just been awesome. The kids love having them here,” Perrone said of the Youngstown officers. “These kids are very quick to open up to people who spend time with them. They’re also very quick to sniff out insincerity.”
Patrolman Sam Mosca, an organizer with the Youngstown Police Department, said the program helps officers make a positive impression on the kids participating.
“They can see that we care about them as individuals and want them to succeed in life,” Mosca said. “It’s been very fulfilling for me and the other officers involved.”