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All eyes were on Wilson County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Herron as he showed area youth a particular technique used in law enforcement every day.
“No fingerprint is exactly the same,” Herron, who works in the office’s crime scene investigation unit, said Tuesday. “There is always evidence left behind. It’s my job to find it.”
More than 30 campers are taking part in the weeklong sheriff’s office Providing Alternative Thinking Strategy summer program. Throughout the week, youths will get an up-close view at how each sheriff’s office division works and what deputies do each day. They will also learn vital life lessons and have an opportunity to build relationships with sheriff’s office staff.
PATHS campers spent Tuesday morning learning about several techniques used in crime scene investigations, including silicone casting, which can be used to lift fingerprints from a scene.
“It’s cool how they can pick up your fingerprint with one little tool,” said 10-year-old Riley Thompson. It was her first time attending the camp.
She said Tuesday was eye-opening because she learned what law enforcement officials do and how they keep the community safe.
“They have to use all these different tools and remember how to use them,” she said.
The camp kicked off Monday with orientation and will include interactive demonstrations with the sheriff’s office dive and K-9 teams as well as tours of the jail and courthouse throughout the week.
Kids will also learn how to build moral character, the importance of community involvement, how to have a positive attitude and what to do in a compromising situation. An awards day will be held Friday.
Ayrick Anderson, 11, said while he attended the camp last year, he’s learned even more this year.
“It’s been a lot more than I thought it would be,” he said. “I learned there are different types of fingerprints.”
The PATHS program is usually held each quarter, where participants ages 11-13 tour the vacant third floor of the Wilson County Detention Center. Through videos and anecdotes, Sheriff Calvin Woodard and deputies teach children strategies to resist bullying, gangs, drugs and what to do when facing peer pressure.
Woodard decided to expand the PATHS program a few years ago into a weeklong summer day camp, which is now in its third year.
“We just bring them closer to law enforcement, showing that we all work together and we are human just like they are,” Woodard said. “They are so intrigued.”
He said it gets him excited watching each kid’s face light up when learning about local law enforcement.
“It’s a really good training mechanism and shows the kids that we love them,” he said. “When they see us around, they don’t have to be in fear of us.”
He said it also builds relationships so youths know deputies will always be there for them regardless of circumstances.
Lt. Marcus Ruffin, program coordinator, said it’s important for youths to know they can approach deputies and talk with them about anything at any time.
“We’re not bad guys,” he said. “Most of them love to see the things that we do. The big thing is just knowing we are here for them.”
Sheriff’s office staff also prepare homemade meals for the campers each day.