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Making Life Safer for Teens

Fairfax Police offer teen safety tips.

In the aftermath of two violent incidents involving teens in Springfield, Fairfax County Police conducted a seminar Tuesday night at Hayfield Secondary School to offer safety tips for teens.

The Franconia District Station of the Fairfax County Police, Safe and Drug Free Youth, Safe Youth Coalition, and Fairfax County Public Schools organized the forum in response to a shooting on Jan. 20 and an incident in which eight people were stabbed on Feb.19. Both incidents occured in Springfield.

As well as the Jan. 20 shooting, Jim Nida, master police officer with the Fairfax County Police, spoke of another shooting in January 2005 on Bismach Drive. Nida said the two incidents shared several similarities. Among these were that they took place at teen parties with no adult control, gang members showed up at the parties without invitation, and alcohol was present at the parties.

Teena Grodner, judge with Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, told the parents about some of the ways teens obtain alcohol for parties. Sometimes, parents will themselves provide the alcohol for parties in their homes. They do so with the rationale that the children would get the alcohol anyway and this way they can oversee the party.

Other times, parents may lock themselves away in their bedroom while the teens party in another part of the home, and the parents pretend not to be aware of what is going on. Still other times, the parents may have alcohol stored in the home and teens use it without the parents' awareness.

THE FORUM'S PRESENTERS offered several suggestions for preventing teens from getting into trouble.

Parents knowing their children's friends is the most important factor in keeping their children out of trouble, Grodner said. Parents should also talk with the parents of their children's friends. If parents are concerned about the parties children are going to, parents should have their own parties in their own homes. Finally, Grodner suggested parents read crime stories in newspapers to their children.

In general, parents need to know who their children are going to be with, what they are going to do and when they are going to do it, Grodner said.

To keep teens safe, parents should know the password to their children's cell phone, said Fairfax County Police Detective Matt Charron.

OUTSIDE THE MEETING, Capt. M. A. DeBoard., the commander of the Franconia District Station, said she was frustrated that only about 15 parents showed up. There's no way the police can do policing without the communities' help, said DeBoard. "It's one of the reasons we have the problems we do."