VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Virginia Beach Master Police Officer David Nieves was walking around several neighborhoods on Tuesday looking to recruit new officers.
"We’re going to ask the individuals if they would like for their child’s favorite toy to go on a ride-along with a police officer,” Nieves explained to News 3.
That children’s toy will actually get to ride with an officer. It’s part of a new effort called Toy Ride Along, and the goal is to give children a chance to get acquainted and comfortable with the Virginia Beach Police Department.
“The last year, they’ve had some type of things poured into them,” Nieves said, referring to the events involving police. “Whether it’s true or not about the police, I just want them to say that the police are their friends."
The person who pitched the idea was Greg Ferebee from Seatack Recreation Center.
“We always research programs. I found a similar program,” Ferebee said. “We tweaked it; I wanted to create a partnership with the police department."
Ferebee is a recreation specialist at the recreation center and said he wanted to bridge underserved communities with the police department.
“I know that they are impacted as far as not having certain avenues or certain doors open,” Ferebee explained. “I wanted to help create some doors and pathways to create a sustainable community."
Nieves said he asked himself two questions once the idea was pitched to him: Will it benefit the community, and will it benefit the department?
"I thought it was a great idea. I was like, 'Let’s do it,'” Nieves said. “I wanted to do it right there and then!"
The crew walked through some of the nearby communities. They handed fliers to the residents, which came in English and Spanish. They dropped off several Spanish fliers inside a local bodega.
Here is how the free program works: Parents bring their child's favorite toy to the Seatack Recreation Center either Friday, March 26 or Saturday, March 2 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The toy must be in a plastic bag with the child’s name and phone number.
The toy gets sanitized, and it rides with the officer. Pictures of the ride get taken and are given to the child, along with a certificate and their toy. The toys, pictures and certificates must be picked up on April 1 or April 2 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
“I just hope that maybe some of these kids remember what we did and when they grow up, they want to be a police officer, too,” Nieves said, “that they can pay it forward and come and join the department."
Parents must sign their children up to participate. Parents can sign up online here by calling the Seatack Recreation Center at (757) 385-5920. The Seatack Recreation Center is located at 141 South Birdneck Road.