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A few months ago a motorist driving through Thermopolis, Wyo., at a fast clip, smashed into the rear of a parked car, backed up and fled the scene leaving behind damages that later cost $300 to repair. Whithin hous, however, Police Chief Melvin Matthews had the hit-run driver in custody despite the fact that the crash was witnessed by only two small boys.|
The boys, Bobby Porter and Duane Elliott, had run to the nearest telephone, called police and turned in a complete description together with license number of the car. Had they been ordinary boys the information necssary to making the arrest might have been lost to the authorities. But Porter and Elliott, the disappointed hit-runner learned, were members of Matthews' Junior Police, carefully trained in the correct handling of just such emergencies.
It isn't the first time that members of the Thermopolis police have similarly been aided. Matthews estimates that his 147 neatly uniformed Junior Police officers have cut juvenile delequency in his city 85 per cent. Last Hollowe'en the regular police force in the north-central Wyoming city of 4,700 population was supplemented by 93 boys in uniform. Not one single case of vandalism was recorded.
When a boy starts to "go bad," Matthews is the second to know it. One of his "agents" is the first. When this happens a chain reaction is started. Members of the Junior Police quietly endeavor to interest the budding delinquent in constructing outlets for his energies. Sometimes he finds the excitement he cravesby becoming a member of the organization. Another boy straightened out. A law-breaking youngster doesn't have a chance in Thermopolis. A bycicle is stolen: The Junior Police find it. A boy commences to pilfer small items from stores: The young cops spot him.
In return for the psychological and tangible support of the Junior Police, Matthews arranges hayrides for his boys and their girl friends, puts on picnics, teaches them Judo, boxing and the handling of small firearms. Businessmen appreciate the boys too. The Washakie plunge gives each boy free tickets for the summer and downtown merchants contribute funds for caps and badges. The boys' parents buy the rest of the uniform.
Matthews, 31, the father of two girls and one son, came to Thermopolis a little over a year ago after police work at Torrington, Wyo., and Scottsbluff and Mitchell, Neb. He started his youth group in May, 1956, and in 30 days had 47 enrollments. In addition to the present 147, another 33 are enrolled in a prep group made up of boys in the lower age bracket. Boys from the age of 6 to 15 are acceptable.
Thermopolis Mayor D. H. Buscher is liberal with his praise for both the police department and the Junior Police. "It's one of the finest youth programs I've ever seen," he says. "These boys can do anything. The older ones handle traffic at special events and help hold crowds. When dignitaries come to Thermopolis, some of the boys are usually detailed to be escorts for them. They take part in parades now, they know the good talking points of our city and they're becoming fine citizens for tomorrow. We're proud of them."
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Last Updated, Wednesday, 29-Oct-2014 08:18:07 MDT