By Odalis A. SUAREZ
It was twelve o’clock in the afternoon when Sergeant Mark Slater of the Crescenta Valley Sheriffs Station drove down Foothill Boulevard to begin his workday. As he headed toward La Cañada, he turned his head left and right looking down the side streets that passed by him in search of one thing: kids doing good.
The time that Slater devotes to track down these young law abiding citizens is part of Operation Chill, a program that is sponsored by 7-Eleven.
“[The objective is] to promote a positive experience between law enforcement and the community,” explained Slater. If a deputy sees a child doing simple law-abiding tasks, such as crossing the street properly or wearing a helmet while riding a bike, they will receive a coupon for a free Slurpee from 7-Eleven. Although this will be only the fifth year that the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station has participated in this program, Operation Chill has been in existence for 14 years.
It didn’t take long for Slater to find his first do-gooders. A group of six friends walking towards Jack in the Box waited patiently for the traffic signal allowing them to cross the street. Not only did the six friends push the crosswalk button, they signaled a vehicle attempting to turn right to stop and allow them to cross. Slater joyfully turned the car around and entered the fast food restaurant.
“I’ve never [given a coupon] at a restaurant before,” he said.
As soon as all the kids finished ordering their food, Slater spoke to them as a group, commending them for their job well done crossing the street.
For the kids it was an instant of shock and uncertainty when the deputy approached them, but when Slater waved the Slurpee coupons, excitement burst through the group. As Slater departed, the group turned and said, “Thank you!”
Slater was particularly pleased with the boys’ behavior.
“Safety outweighed [their] hungry tummies,” he said.
This encounter was just one of the four that Slater had. The others included a group of youngsters with their parents wearing their helmets while biking, a child walking her dog on a leash, and a group of girls properly crossing the street.
When Slater found the four helmet-wearing children, he drove up the residential street to award them.
“I always try to get [the] helmets,” said Slater, who finds helmet wearing an important law abiding and safety issue for children.
One mother who was watching the children play was obviously pleased that the kids were being rewarded for their behavior.
The surprise of seeing her child approached by law enforcement startled one
“What happened?” she called out as she hurried from her home, dropping her kitchenware in her haste. Concern that something had occurred was replaced with a sigh of relief when she discovered that Slater’s presence was intended as a positive visit. Knowing the good deed that her son did, she gave him a big hug.
“The sky is the limit for what deputies see as good,” explained Slater who gave an example of a child behaving properly at a fireworks show as an act eligible for a Slurpee coupon. “It’s just nice seeing the kids’ face light up.”
The Operation Chill program is a chance for positive interaction with local youth, some of who may have considered law enforcement as scary. Deputies hope that this program will also enable kids to spread the word about the advantages of following the law and doing good deeds as a citizen.
As they keep those coupons handy in their vehicles, Crescenta Valley Sheriffs will keep their eyes peeled for kids who are exemplars of good.