Seriously, trust us

Published July 6, 2007

There was plenty of laughter and excitement when the sheriff's helicopter touched down and the mounted patrol brought out its horse.

But the Kids Safety Day held by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at Bethune Recreation Center in Wimauma held its share of serious moments too.

"Guys, if you hear gunfire, get out of the way, " sheriff's Deputy J.D. Carlton from the Crime Prevention Bureau told the 55 children, ages 5 to 15, Monday.

Carlton stressed the danger of guns and gangs as part of an outreach to the youth in a community where residents distrust law enforcement and are sometimes slow to report crimes or help with investigations.

Carlton told a story about a fight between two kids, one of whom went to a car to get a gun. When the shots rang out, four kids who weren't involved in the fight got hit by bullets. One died.

"You don't know how serious it is until someone dies in your arms, " Carlton said, as the children, squirming and swatting at flies, grew still and listened.

The children, members of a summer camp held at the park, also heard or watched demonstrations by the motorcycle, canine and bicycle units. Deputies also preached swimming and seat belt safety tips.

Community Deputy J.J. Marcano, who helped organize the event, told the children that they can trust the Sheriff's Office, even if sometimes the deputies correct them.

"If we tell you to stop doing something, it's not because we don't care. We do care, " Marcano said.

He told them to study and to listen to their parents and teachers.

"If you have problems, talk to us, " he said.

Times staff photographer Skip O'Rourke contributed to this report. Saundra Amrhein can be reached at 661-2441 or amrhein@sptimes.com.