Anybody who’s been pulled over and seen a law enforcement officer put the pen to paper to write them a ticket knows how gut-wrenching of a feeling that can be. For kids doing good deeds during the summer months, however, getting a ticket could be a much better experience.
Beginning this month and continuing through the summer break, kids across the United States and Canada have the chance to get a free Slurpee at 7-Eleven through the Operation Chill program. If a town police officer or county sheriff’s deputy spots a kid exhibiting good behavior, such as helping another person, obeying safety laws or participating in a community event, they could write the child “offender” a ticket—a coupon good for a free, 12-ounce Slurpee at 7-Eleven, which normally costs $1.40 in Loudoun.
This year, the sheriff’s office, the Leesburg Police Department and the Purcellville Police Department are among 88 Virginia law enforcement agencies participating in the program. The sheriff’s office has been ticketing kids every summer since 2014, and this year has 2,000 coupons to hand out.
Sheriff Mike Chapman said the program is just one way for deputies to show local youth that law enforcement officers do more than just ticket the bad guys.
“I think the key here is that the children see us in a capacity of being friendly and being open to the community,” he said. “I hope it has a positive effect on the children.”
While it might be a little difficult for deputies to spot kids exhibiting good behavior from the drivers’ seats of their cruisers, Chapman said the majority of the tickets written come from deputies who are more actively involved in the community, including school and community resource officers and Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructors. He said deputies also give coupons to kids who visit one of the department’s stations or attend the annual Child Safety Day at the Village at Leesburg, which is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 11.
According to Leesburg Police Department Public Information Officer Sam Shenouda, Operation Chill is not only a way for officers to engage with kids, but also a chance to let the general public know that they should never hesitate to contact the police in times of need.
“Law enforcement can’t work without the community,” he said. “We’ll never get anywhere if we don’t have the support of the community.”
Shenouda said the department’s effort to interact with kids even goes beyond this project, as many officers also carry sticker badges and teddy bears in their cruisers to hand out year round.
“It’s important for us to engage especially a younger community…because we can make an impression early on,” he said. “Kids are an integral part of our day-to-day operations.”
This is the first year the Purcellville Police Department has participated in the program. Acting Police Chief Joe Schroeck said it’s a great icebreaker for his officers to get to know the kids in town. He said that the 200 coupons 7-Eleven sent them would be distributed mainly in and around neighborhoods this summer. When school is back in session in August, officers will be looking specifically for kids who use the crosswalks correctly when walking to and from school. “We’re trying to reward good behavior in the youth,” he said.
Operation Chill became a national program in 1995 “to reduce crime and enhance relations between police and youth” and to provide “opportunities for officers to establish a rapport with kids in a neighborhood,” according to the 7-Eleven corporate website. Since its inception, law enforcement officers in the U.S. and Canada have written nearly 21 million tickets for free Slurpees. The store expects 1.4 million coupons to be handed out in 2018.
In addition to Operation Chill, 7-Eleven also runs several other programs to give back to the community. One of those is Project A-Game, which awards grants for academic, fitness, safety and hunger relief programs for America’s youth. In 2017, the program awarded grants at Leesburg’s Tuscarora High School and the Lovettsville Elementary School.
According to its website, 7-Eleven is striving to increase corporate giving to 1 percent of its annual operating net income by 2025.