Police Building Bridges with Virginia Beach’s Youth

VBPD’s Youth Services Unit works to keep kids on right path

Police officer hugging girl and laughing with two other girls by police car

It’s normal to think of police work as strictly law enforcement — responding to calls for service, solving crimes, and bringing justice to families. As important as those duties are, being proactive in engaging with young people in positive situations can have just as big of an impact. 

That’s the mindset of the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) and the reason it created the Youth Services Unit.  

“We created the Youth Services Unit to protect our city’s children, and to help nurture them so they can realize their full potential,” said VBPD Chief Paul Neudigate. “We want these kids to know that they can trust a police officer, and that we’re here to help them succeed and keep them safe.”  

VBPD Lt. Kevin Lokey has led the Youth Services Unit since its inception in January 2023, and since then he and his team have created more than 20 initiatives, programs and opportunities directed at engaging young people and fostering healthy relationships with them and their families. 

“We’re meeting these kids where they are, building those bonds and relationships with them to help them stay on the right path,” Lokey said. 

“Whether it’s mentoring, coaching, playing games with kids or something else, our team is actively trying to engage as many kids as possible and let them know that we’re here to help.”  

Mentoring Programs 

Lokey sees incredible value in officers mentoring young people. Through the Recreation Center Mentor Program, VBPD officers engage with youths on a regular basis to listen, play games, teach conflict resolution, plan their futures and more. Youth Services also holds the Youth Police Academy every January at First Colonial High School, giving students insight into basic law, law enforcement history and topics, school safety and more. 

VBPD also partners with Virginia Beach City Public Schools, the Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, the Sheriff’s Office and others to put on the Arrive Alive VB initiative — a program designed to mitigate and prevent distracted driving among teenagers. Other partnerships include the Fire Department’s Safety Squad and the An Achievable Dream program at Lynnhaven Middle School, which allow students to interact directly with first responders. 

“Our youth come in contact with many other City departments and local organizations,” Lokey said. “Working with them helps us maximize our efforts to meet kids where they feel comfortable and effectively share our message.” 

Police officer in front of group of high school students

Providing a safe environment 

Through the School Resource Officer (SRO) program, Youth Services oversees police officers in public schools across the city to prioritize a safe learning environment for students, faculty and staff. These officers receive specialized training and work closely with faculty and staff to keep students safe, but also to foster positive relationships with law enforcement. 

Whether it’s school safety, mental health crises, drug use or abuse, homelessness, or gun violence, police are often the first on deck when dealing with societal issues. As the VBPD prioritizes youth outreach and engagement, VBPD also calls upon our entire community to help provide a safe environment to grow up in. VBPD asks that gun owners properly secure their firearms to help prevent stolen guns from ending up in the hands of children. Parents, guardians, and family should monitor their children’s social media activity to ensure they aren’t engaging in illegal activity. Keeping our young people safe requires all of us to do our part. 

“Our department, as well as other City departments and local organizations, are making the health, safety and well-being of our youth a priority,” Neudigate said. “We need everyone to help us protect our kids.” 

New Initiatives 

The Youth Services Unit has two new initiatives for youth this summer — Camp Blue Line and Camp Connect. Camp Blue Line is a two-week long course that’s ideal for middle and high schoolers considering a career in law enforcement. Camp Connect is a five-day course that covers financial skills, conflict resolution, teambuilding, firearm safety and more.  

“Each of these programs offer a lot of value to parents and their children,” Lokey said. “Whether you’re interested in law enforcement, or looking for ways to better communicate with others, our programs are designed specifically to reach and engage with our youth.”