The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force is usually out putting drug dealers and other criminals behind bars, but Tuesday top agents took a break to celebrate the conclusion of an FBI Youth Academy on the West Side.
For the last two months, 30 youngsters, mostly 10-year-olds, have spent one evening a week learning how to be better citizens and avoid the pitfalls and dangers of street life in their neighborhoods from members of the task force.
The academy students received instruction in conflict resolution, Internet safety to avoid online predators, physical fitness training and plenty of encouragement to do well in school so that they can succeed in life.
Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge of the Buffalo office of the FBI, presented the diplomas to the youngsters in a closing ceremony in the Belle Center on Maryland Street.
“These young men and women are the future of this city, and the FBI has a role in developing our community as well as protecting it,” Boetig said.
“Over the past two months, the children have learned they have an important role in driving the course of their future.”
Task force members – who often work undercover to build cases against criminals who residents believe are harming the quality of life in different areas, including the Lower West Side – worked directly with the children.
In addition to providing the kids with instructions in various subjects, FBI officials said, the children were able to see for themselves that law enforcement workers want what’s best for them and the community.
Lucy Candelario, executive director of the Belle Center, said, “I’m so happy and proud that the FBI chose the Belle Center to do the academy. Most often the kids don’t get the opportunity to see law enforcement at work. It shows a path to promise and that the agents truly care because they take out from their busy schedule to do this.”