I had the pleasure and honor to sit down and talk with Sergeant Craig Mortensen and Sergeant Jason Pitts from the Longmont Police Department. Sgt Mortensen has been with the Longmont Police Department since 2000 and has been the head of the SRO (School Resource Officers) since 2017. Sgt Pitts has been with the Longmont Police Department since 1996 and is currently the Sgt of Gang and Crime Suppression Unit (GCSU).
The conversation included both Officers, so for the answers below if there is a M it is an answer from Sgt Mortensen; and if there is a P it is an answer from Sgt Pitts.
Q- What are the top three things you would recommend for helping parents to keep their children safe all year?
P- Communication is HUGE in building trust and open conversations.
M- 1) Be involved in your children's lives. 2) Have a trusting relationship with your children where they can talk honestly with you. 3) Track your children's social media footprint and know what they are doing online.
Q- What are the most common crimes in our area for children under 18 yrs old?
M-The most common crimes in Longmont for children under the age of 18 are theft, simple assaults (fighting) and marijuana related offenses.
Q- What signs should we look for that our children are getting into trouble?
P- You should look for signs such as your child being secretive, not talking openly with you and isolating themselves from family and friends. Also look for changes in their demeanor, if they start dressing differently and if their friends suddenly change. These all should be considered red flags that something is going on.
Q- What should we do if we think our children are doing wrong like breaking laws, in a gang, or even being around those people and being guilty by association?
P- Start with direct and honest communication with your children. Be an advocate and a supporter of your child; and don't just be hard on them all the time. Talk to your children about the fact that association with criminal behavior or people doing wrong, makes you just as guilty. Guilty by association is a real thing and we need to teach our children to not be around people making bad/criminal decisions. If issues are addressed when they first happen and occur then it is less likely to continue.
M- When children get in trouble; parental involvement is key! Parents need to set the standards for a good relationship between them and their children early on. And, just be a parent to their children. The Police want to partner with parents; when possible, and let the parents be parents to their children.
Q- How many gangs do we have in Longmont? What is the average age of members and average age of being recruited?
P- Longmont has 4 main gangs. The average age of gang members is about 13-15 years old. Recruitment can start as young as Elementary school aged children. However, in Longmont, we see the numbers drop for older ages. We use many resources to help manage and deter gang activity, recruitment and the behaviors associated. This includes a close partnership and direct communication between SROs and Gang Officers.
Q- How can we help protect our children from being part of gang activity?
P- Education is key and knowing what to look for. Parents don't be afraid to talk to your children about things. If parents have more questions they can email me for additional help at firstname.lastname@example.org
M- Strong family relationships are important.
Sgt Mortensen will be sending me resources with more information on what to look for and I will edit this to include it once I have received it.
Q- Is graffiti gang related and how can we stop children from doing it? What should parents do if we see this type of activity happening?
P- "Tagging" is not gang related but more of a "social" or "artistic" thing. "Gang Graffiti" is more of a message from one gang to another or marking of territory. If you see someone actively graffitiing call the non-emergency number and help provide a description of the person, the location, and any other information you can; like the color of paint being used if you notice. The non-emergency Longmont Police Department number is (303)651-8555.
Q- What resources are available to help parents talk to their children about these subjects and staying safe? Or, what suggestions do you have about starting the conversations?
P-Talk to your children and ask direct, fair and non-judgemental questions. Have honest conversations to work through problems and to find solutions. If you make being their parent your priority from the start, then you can help your children succeed in the future with open communication.
M- Parents should make an effort to not just talk to your children, but get to know your children. Ask them to help you understand who they are and about their life.
Q- Do you have any additional information or resources you would like parents to know about?
M- The Police want to be a resource to help parents, but they do not want to be the parent, disciplinarian or punishment to your child. Helping our children starts at home.