ROCKINGHAM — Cpl. Marcus Ricks of the Rockingham Police Department visited the Leak Street Education and Cultural Center Wednesday to educate kids attending the Summer Food and Fun program on how to stay safe while school is out.
“How many of you have ever seen the movie ‘21 Jump Street?” Ricks asked.
Hands shot into the air, along with a little chatter.
“When I started working on the police force over in Moore County, I looked young,” Ricks said. “So one day I was asked to go undercover to Pinecrest High School. I signed up for classes. I dressed like the other students, looked like them, went to class with them. My job to was try to get students to sell me drugs. And I got a lot of people that way.”
Ricks said that some of the items sold to him at the school were not even real.
“I got one Tylenol that they told me was oxycodone,” he said. “But we got some real prescription and non-prescription illegal drugs. Don’t be one of those people. Don’t let that life drag you in. Do you think selling a drug that isn’t really a drug is a crime? Well, it is. And it’s one you can get in trouble for, just like selling real drugs.”
Ricks said that here in Rockingham he works in the traffic division and has the same responsibilities as a state trooper.
“I drive around writing speeding tickets and making sure children are using the right car seats,” Ricks said. “One of my passions is making sure people are safe on the roads.”
And speaking of cars, Ricks switched lanes to mention some important facts about the dangers of playing in parked cars.
“When it’s 90 degrees outside it could be 150 degrees inside that car,” he said. “The temperature inside a parked car can rise by 20 degrees within minutes of shutting the doors. Also, a car can pop out of gear and start rolling. And if you jump in a car that’s unlocked, it could lock and trap you in there.”
Ricks said the last thing he would ever want to do is respond to a call where a child has died inside a hot car.
“That would ruin me for the rest of my career,” he said.
Ricks wants kids to know that in North Carolina, it’s the law to wear a seat belt in all parts of a car.
“Ninety percent of accidents on roadways happen less than a mile from home,” Ricks said. “You have to have seat belt on whether you’re in the front seat or the back. A lot of times in a wreck, the people who don’t make it out are the ones who weren’t wearing their seat belts.”
Ricks also cautioned the kids not to use sidewalks for riding bicycles due to the risk of injury to pedestrians.
“You see people riding bikes on the sidewalks, but that’s really not what they are for,” Ricks said. “But the most important thing is to wear a helmet wherever you ride. I know it doesn’t look cool, but it’s better than getting a head injury. There are some very nice-looking helmets now that don’t look bad.”
Ricks then went over the dangers that come with warm summer nights.
“At night if you’re awake late, don’t go outside,” he said. “Chances are, the people still out there after the sun goes down are up to no good. By the time it gets dark, you should be inside your home, at home playing video games. A lot of bad stuff happens after dark.”
As for his uniform and his role as an officer of the law, Ricks made a point of letting the kids know that if they see a police officer in their neighborhood, they are more than welcome to step forward and say hello, or just wave from across the street.
“I don’t want y’all to hate me because of what I’m wearing and what I do,” he said. “I’m here to help you. Call me. Don’t be scared of us. How many of y’all are Christians?”
Nearly everyone’s hand shot up.
“The majority,” Ricks said. “And what do we do as Christians? Love everybody, right?”
“Yes,” the kids responded in unison.
“We’re all human and we’re all the same,” he said. “We all make mistakes. But we’re all here now. There’s no white or black anymore. There’s people. All of us are just people. And when you get a little older and get to the high school you’ll all be green and gold. You know how to do the right thing. “
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.