Chalkboards to Combat Hooliganism
Local News - Newsmakers
Written by Millbank Daily-Weekly   
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 18:32

In response to an anticipated epidemic of graffiti, local police have received funding from the town for two chalkboards. The chalkboards will be deployed in Ottoman Park, near the bridge where "at risk" teenagers frequently convene.

"We haven't had any graffiti incidents yet this summer," said a police spokesperson, "but we want to be proactive and let the kids know we're on their side."

During their weekly briefing with the city council, the Millbank Police Youth Task Force (MPYTF) presented the request for chalkboards and accessories to the city council with a forty-five-minute slide show depicting how graffiti is a gateway to more dangerous criminal behavior such as planking, streaking and nude wrestling. Scenes from the movie "Warriors" were shown to emphasize the point.

"Chilling," said Mayor Mr. Sofa Guy. "I think I can speak for all citizens when I say we'd rather have chalkboards in the park than bat-wielding hoodlums prowling at night."

The MPYTF is tasked with keeping teenagers safe and non-threatening. They are highly trained at relating to teenagers and understanding their language and slang. This summer, the Force has stepped up its activities targeting idle youth. Recent  events include the Neat Teen Noonday Movies in the Park and the "Us Young Adults Like to Rap" sessions during which teenagers can enjoy half-price decaf beverages at the Koffee Klatsch while spending time with their school teachers. The "Help a Cop" program that allowed teenagers to perform chores for active-duty policeman has been canceled over liability concerns and lack of interest.Noonday Movies in the Park

Despite the heavy schedule of youth activities specifically targeted for potential troublemakers, though, MPYTF officers have worried that they are not reaching all adolescents. They believe some may still feel unengaged by society and will seek inappropriate outlets for expressing themselves.

"We wanted to be proactive," said a police spokesman, "and avoid last year's nightmare when someone spray-painted that happy face on the bridge."

The new chalkboards, which are five-feet by eight-feet, will be securely mounted to concrete posts near the bridge. A red line will be painted around the area near them and labeled the "Totally Free Speech Zone". Signage will promote the chalkboards and encourage youth to express themselves.

"They can say anything," said the police spokesman. "We want the kids to know we respect their space, their ideas and their need to be heard.  The Totally Free Speech Zone is a safe harbor, where they are protected and encouraged to let it all hang out, within reason."

Police explained that while the city's youth can use the chalkboards to say anything, they may not post disparaging remarks about the police or city council members. Also, racist and offensive language is forbidden. Religious messages are discouraged. Users of the chalkboards also should be aware that eight surveillance cameras will be installed and police will monitor the area and document what is written and by whom. Any complaints from people who are offended or whose feelings are hurt will be investigated and youths may have to meet with complainants at the police station.

Also, because the surveillance cameras and wireless network were more expensive than originally anticipated, youth will have to provide their own chalk.

"This is a dream come true for teenagers," said an MPYTF officer. "This is their chance to be free and go crazy. All they need to do is bring their own chalk, be polite, come back an hour later to clean the boards, and know that we're watching them. Also, no skateboarding in the Park."

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 18:38
 

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