Berkeley police spread holiday cheer among local youths

Sam Albillo/File

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On Wednesday, officers from the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD, escorted 20 children to a Target store in Albany to go holiday shopping.

Made possible by a $3000 grant from Target, the program collaboration with BPD is the first of its kind. According to BPD spokesperson Officer Byron White, the program was developed to help families in need during the holiday season. Working with the city Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, BPD partnered with the MLK Jr. Youth Services Center to identify 20 families.

“This is the first time doing it, so maybe in the future there will be expansion,” White said. “We feel fortunate that we have this opportunity … It’s not often we get to do something like this. Working with the youth has been one of the things the department has wanted to bring back more.”

Target has paired public safety workers and local children for in-store shopping experiences each holiday season since 2009, according to Target spokesperson Shane Kitzman. In the last decade, Target has welcomed more than 100,000 children during these experiences.

The officers picked up the youths — aged eight to 12 — from the center at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Each officer drove a child to Target and stayed for about an hour to buy presents for family members; each child also received $150 of the grant to shop for their families.

Afterward, the officers and children took the presents back to the center, where they wrapped the gifts together and ate pizza. The event ended about 8 p.m.

“We hold these events because BPD wants to get to know people more, not just during times of crisis,” White explained.

BPD’s monthly Coffee with a Cop events and National Night Out are other programs meant to foster community. During the National Night Out, BPD officers visit community members at block parties throughout the city.

White said he hopes the event will teach children about economics and time management. Although the officers offer guidance, the children make personal choices to remain within the budget.

“I’m happy that we’re able to help out the community and hopefully brighten their holiday season,” White said.

Contact Angelina Wang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dc_angelina.