On Saturday, Dec. 17, Community-Oriented Policing Officers from the Alexandria Police Department delivered toys and food to children and families within their communities.
Officers in the James Bland community obtained 400 toys from the Toys for Tots program, 1400 pounds of food from the Capital Area Food Bank, including $1000 in gift cards to purchase turkeys and hams from Giant. Additionally, Charles Houston Recreation Center donated decorations to decorate the trailer the officers used to make their deliveries.
Officers, along with Santa, passed out over 300 toys and all the food to James Bland, Andrew Adkins, Hopkins/Tancil Communities. The officers gave toys to each and every child that came to get a glimpse of the trailer. Many were given a toy directly from Santa himself.
The remaining toys were donated to the Mill Road family shelter to ensure a bountiful holiday season for the children there.
Officers in the Hume Springs and Lynhaven community began their program in 2009 when Officer Nicholas Ruggiero, a COPS Officer with the Alexandria City Police Department, noticed an increase in juvenile quality of life crimes in these communities.
Officer Ruggiero researched the age group of the juveniles offenders and discovered that they ranged from 13 to 16 years old. Additionally, Officer Ruggiero discovered that the target offenders had siblings ranging from 8 to 10 years old and at risk being offenders as well.
In 2010, Officer Ruggiero and Officer Matthew Kramarik wanted to create a program that not only gave the at risk juveniles a positive image of the police, but create a partnership for the future, and element the chance of them becoming offenders. They created COPS for Christmas. The goal was to secure private funds from civic associations and surrounding business’s in the community and purchase Christmas gifts for the at risk kids.
Attending civic meetings Officer Ruggiero and Kramarik secured funds from both civic associations, and a generous donation of food from Giant Foods.
Nineteen children were selected for the programs first year. Officers Ruggiero and Kramarik went to each home (6 total) and asked each kid one question “If you can ask Santa for one thing this year what would you ask for?” They created an “APD Santa list” and committed to getting every gift the children asked for. One family in particular the kids didn’t ask for toys or electronic games, but asked for coats and food. The Officers purchased each family member, including the adults, coats and secured a two month supply of food donations for the family. The family also received bikes and several toys.
In 2011 the COPS for Christmas program tripled its contributions and created a web site to secure donations throughout the year for the gift-giving event. Officer Ruggiero created “COPS and Santa”. This is an event that allows the kids in the community to meet Santa and take a free picture home with Santa. The event was originally expected to entertain 25 kids, but the community embraced the program so well the COPS Officers took 135 pictures.
Throughout the holiday season this program did much more then give toys to children in need or food to those who were hungry. The program gave the community a message that the police are partners in the community.