Teens Help Clean Up Southampton

Young adults participating in the Explorer program recently cleaned up graffiti. Independent/Courtesy Southampton Town police

The Explorers, a group of young people exploring the possibility of a career in law enforcement or in related fields, took to the streets in recent weeks to clean up “unsightly graffiti in Southampton Town,” Police Lieutenant Susan Ralph said on Thursday.

As part of the Southampton Town Police Explorer Program, a group of young men and women aged between 14 and 20, started July 27 on a Long Island Railroad train trestle in Hampton Bays, white washing over graffiti. Then the following week, “the Explorers cleaned up graffiti in Eastport, East Quogue, and Sagaponack,” Ralph said.

Ralph explained the police department has been participating for the past five years in what is a national program that has over 33,000 Explorers nationwide, and over 8,400 adult volunteers.

The group meet two evenings a month, for two and a half hours. The classes are anything but staid. “Lectures are fun and interactive, hands on. It is a great way to learn,” Ralph said.

“We train with them,” she added. “They go through some of the classes that we experience in the police academy, and we do practical stuff as well.”

Besides cleaning up graffiti, that “practical stuff” also includes participating in “child safety seat events, and coat drives. We are going to be doing a shoe drive soon called ‘Soles for Souls.’ ”

Next month, the Explorers will dabble crime investigation. “We give them a crime scene with advisors as actors. They have to process the crime scene. They have to interview and interrogate the suspects and the witnesses and any of the victims and then they have to put their entire case together like we do. They have to present it to a court, composed again of advisors,” Ralph said.

The Explorers have done a mock investigation with Southampton police for the past two years. Because of the need for social distancing during the ongoing pandemic, they probably will not be able to finish up that part of the program the way they did last year. “Last year we had a dinner. We invited the families to come in they watch the kids present their cases.” At the end, Ralph said, the advisors pick the Explorer they feel did the best job overall.

While not everyone ends up going into law enforcement, Ralph is very proud of what graduates of the program have gone on to do. One young woman, for example, interned at the White House. She is currently in college, the lieutenant said, looking forward to a career in cyber-security.

Two other graduates 0f the program recently “scored well on the Suffolk County Police exam and are looking for to starting their careers soon,” she added. Another decided on a career in the military and is now a cadet at West Point.

The young adults are not the only ones who enjoy the program. “For us it is bridging the gap between us and the younger community,” Ralph said. Police officers and officials, she explained, “don’t always deal with the most enjoyable things.” The members of the department who serve as advisors to the young Explorers “look forward to it. It gives us something to look forward to.”

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