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Cops take kids on shopping spree

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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When Jose Arciniega sat in a police car for the first time, he was happy it was in the front seat. “I could just imagine your hands being tied behind your back and all cramped up,” the seventh-grader said. Arciniega, a student at Cooley Middle School, was one of five local children who got a rare opportunity to go on a personal shopping spree with a Roseville police officer Friday. Five local children, along with their parents, met up at the Roseville Police Department Friday evening before they were “whisked away” in a police car to go on the $200 shopping spree at Target. The new program called “Shop with a Cop” is the brainchild of Roseville police officer Darren Kato. After three months of working to facilitate funding through Target, the Rotary Club of Roseville and other community donations, Kato unveiled the volunteer program that targets at-risk youth. On the first Friday of each month, Kato, along with volunteer officers and staff within the Roseville Police Department, will take a group of five to 12 kids shopping at Target. “If you look in any corner of our community, you will find children in need,” Kato said. “This is all about the kids. This is a reward based on their performance, and we try to make that clear to them.” Any child ages 5 to 18 can be nominated for the program, and children are selected based on a number of criteria including grades, attitude and sustained performance, Kato said. “The gang kids are really what we’re after,” Kato said. “We want to help them out. We understand that the only place that leads is prison.” Kato said children in poverty are generally the targets of street gang recruitment because they don’t have a lot. “Part of the allure of street gangs is they offer the things that their parents can’t provide,” he said. “If we as a police department can step in and fill in where we can, it’s a win-win situation all the way around.” Trevor Laube, a freshman at Roseville High School who boasts mostly A’s and B’s on his report card, was one of five children selected out of a field of 60 applicants to go on the first shopping spree Friday. He said he was looking forward to getting some new shoes, either Vans or Air Jordans. Trevor says there are a lot of kids in his neighborhood who are afraid of police, but he has never felt pressured to join a gang. “I see the cops are way more present around the neighborhood now,” said his father, Dave Laube. “It’s great to see them around as much as we have. It seems to really keep the strays away a little bit more.” Kato, who works in the crime suppression unit of the Roseville Police Department, said it has taken him nearly nine months to earn enough trust and respect from residents in the Roseville Heights neighborhood to implement this program. The idea for “Shop with a Cop” arose after Kato heard a story about Machel Miller, who runs the North Roseville REC Center on High Street. Miller bought a young boy some new shoes and clothing because the only apparel he had was in gang colors, and he didn’t want to be affiliated with a gang anymore. So Kato and his partner began to bounce ideas back and forth and decided they could help out in a similar fashion, he said. “We understand that changing the landscape or what the environment looks like here is part of the solution,” Kato said. “We are looking to give a positive image toward these kids that usually only see us in negative light.” Kato said he has worked hard to put the infrastructure in place so that this monthly program can last for at least 10 to 15 years. “One of my biggest goals is to see one of the kids from the neighborhood, that one day he or she will fill my shoes,” Kato said. “If we affect change in just one kid, if one kid becomes a success, then it’s all worth it.” Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT. ---------- To nominate a child for the “Shop with a Cop” program, visit www.roseville.ca.us/police