Camp Power cuts University Village arrests in half

By Leah Nicolini

A two-year DeKalb police initiative has reduced arrests in University Village by half.

The Camp Power program reduced arrests by 48.6 percent in University Village, 722 N. Annie Glidden Road, from 2014, said DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery during City Council on Monday. Camp Power was created to alleviate crime while endorsing healthy eating and exercise, and providing free lunches and enrollment to children ages 5 to 12, Lowery said.

“The calls for service for both fire and police were very high in [University Village], and it seemed there was something we could do there to address it other than try to arrest our way out of a situation,” Lowery said. “With that, Camp Power was kind of conceived.”

From 2014, there were 24 fewer service calls and 40 fewer offenses in ‘petty’ crimes reported, said Nancy Prange, NIU dietetic internship director.

“We focused on physical activity and getting those kids really moving,” said Lisa Cummings, YMCA community health liaison. “For the physical activity component, we had an NIU [graduate] assistant that came in and did data assessment for us throughout the entire summer — not only on the physical activity component but also on the nutrition component, as well. So we know our kids at Camp Power were moderately vigorously active 81 percent of the time.”

The ten-week program enrolled 46 percent of the 307 children living in University Village, while 40 percent consistently attended the eight week camp, Cummings said. Camp Power Up, the teenager version of Camp Power, registered 22 teenagers, while 18 attended the camp consistently, Cummings said.

More than 2,500 lunches were served in 2015, Prange said. Nutrition education was performed by NIU dietetic interns, which involved games and colors identification.

“One of the goals of Camp Power is to feed the children over the summer months,” Prange said. “The vast majority, if not 100 percent, are on the free or reduced school lunch. Prior to Camp Power, there hadn’t been access to the summer lunch program, so that was one of our big goals.”

An NIU graduate assistant from the Department of Kinesiology surveyed the participants and found 72 percent said they were eating more fruits and trying new foods, and 56 percent were asking someone at home to buy fruits and vegetables because of Camp Power, Prange said.

Camp Power will now be operated by the YMCA in order to promote the program’s sustainability. The advisory committee — made up of Cummings, Hess, Lowery, Prange and Mark Spiegelhoff, Kishwaukee Family YMCA CEO — is responsible for coming up with the funds to run the program for free, said Mary Hess, KishHealth Systems Prevention Specialist.

“Having participated in Camp Power for both years, I certainly saw a change from 2014 to 2015,” said DeKalb Mayor John Rey. “Personally, I saw progress week by week in terms of organization and approach and the kids’ involvement.”