The New Haven Police Department’s summer camp kicked off Monday morning with nearly 300 children attending.
The New Haven Police Activities League, or PAL, camp is free for children ages 8 to 13. It's held at Wilbur Cross High School and lasts five weeks.
Campers play team sports including football, baseball, basketball, swimming and track. They also participate in arts and crafts, music, language arts and mathematics.
The camp counselors are the people you imagine fighting crime: New Haven police officers.
“It’s fun; it’s exciting. I already like it a lot,” said 10-year-old camper Tyler Saxton.
Camp leaders say this year's turnout is their largest ever. The camp is an opportunity for children to not only stay mentally and physically active, but to see officers in a different light.
“Usually, officers are fighting bad guys and stuff, and it’s pretty cool for them to just be at this school and helping us,” said Ty-Mare Lester, who is 10 years old and back for a second year of camp.
“I think that they are role models because they help us. When someone is being disrespectful, they tell them,” added first-time camper Shynelle Pittman.
Officers hope building an officer-camper relationship will help guide children toward a brighter future.
“When the officers and our youth counselors are forming their friendships with the campers, they’re also helping them make better choices and giving them different options… to think twice before they do something wrong,” explained Sgt. Elisa Tuozzoli
The PAL camp takes place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Police substations across the city’s 10 policing districts will serve as bus stops for families who need transportation.
If you’re interested in sending your child to PAL, there is a waiting list.