KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Police officers assigned to work in the city's crime "hot spots" took some time Wednesday to develop positive relationships with teens at Center High School.
Police hope the partnerships can turn anyone into a crime fighter.
"We have an opportunity, and I think the responsibility to create some positive interaction," said Capt. Ryan Mills, commander of the hot spot program.
Not many people would consider school to be a crime hot spot, but police say there's a lot more to making neighborhoods safer than just chasing down the bad guys.
More officers believe it's just as important to get to know the people they serve, and show them they are not a force to be feared.
Meeting with students over a breakfast of donuts, seniors such as Nadiyah Mahmud say it's an eye-opening experience to get to know cops as real people, and she thinks it's critical that police recognize her as friendly face to help them.
"I think that’s a big deal really," Mahmud said. "I go reach out to anybody I can really. Students here, I say, 'Hey do you want to go talk to this police officer with me?' Just so we can try to get our name out there. Try to build us up with the African American community."
The partnership program with students is in the early stages, but already officers feel like it's making a difference.
Too often, they say they encounter young people who are afraid of anyone in a blue uniform.
"After we can spend some time with them and they realize I’m not a monster or I’m just a regular person," Mills said. "There was a boy who was a younger kid, he was just that way. He was terrified. When he left he gave me a hug, told me he had a great time talking to me, called his dad right away and said, 'I met a police officer and he was nice.'"
Once a level of trust has been established both officers and students recognize that they share a common goal: to enjoy a peaceful life in a safe neighborhood.