South Bend, Ind. When Derek Dieter pops open the trunk of his South Bend Police squad car, many people are surprised by what they see.
For the past ten years, he’s loaded it up with dozens of children’s books – turning his law enforcement vehicle into a mobile library.
“What you're seeing today are kids where I passed out books previously. Now they're running up to the police with their book reports,” he said while out on HUD patrol Monday.
It’s part of the ‘Get Booked’ program. While Dieter’s been doing it for years, he says this time around the program has more structure. Kids pick out a book and then write a report about what they read. Once they turn in five book reports, they’re rewarded with four tickets to Coveleski Stadium or the Salvation Army Kroc Center.
“I think it's wonderful,” said South Bend parent Mosetta Horton. “I really think the city needs to organize more programs that are kid-geared. To really get them out of the streets and more active this summer – and not have a cost attached to it.”
But, ‘Get Booked’ isn’t only geared toward getting kids excited about reading. Dieter hopes by having positive, non-confrontational interactions with the kids it will help build trust.
“The earlier you can build a rapport, the longer lasting relationship you'll have on a positive note,” he said. “It's very hard to come to a kid when he's maybe in middle school and high school and try to tell him that.”
So, Dieter focuses on interacting with the kids at an early age and staying on top of them as they get older. He hands out books while he’s out on patrol, but also spends time talking to kids and giving them advice.
While some are still nervous to approach a police car, residents say the program is making a difference in their neighborhoods.
“They’re seeing that the police officer's out there to protect them from what's out there,” said Mitzy Howard, who runs a daycare where several kids participate. “And, that's a good thing on their part.”
The books for the program come from the St. Joseph County Public Library or Better World Books.