Explorers gain lessons in police work, service

By Joyce Blay
Staff Writer

Explorers gain lessons
in police work, service
By Joyce Blay
Staff Writer

JOYCE BLAY  Jackson police Lt. Rick Ferrarelli, an adviser to the Jackson Police Department’s Police Explorers post, discusses home security with members of the post during a field trip to a home in the community. See page 8.JOYCE BLAY Jackson police Lt. Rick Ferrarelli, an adviser to the Jackson Police Department’s Police Explorers post, discusses home security with members of the post during a field trip to a home in the community. See page 8.

JACKSON — They are young people on a quest, but not for gold, silver, God or country. The members of Jackson Police Explorers Post 168 are in search of their life’s work.

"Some of us are also fire department Explorers," said Josh Lettera, 15, a 10th-grade student at Jackson Memorial High School. "We try to explore our horizons."

The program was created under the coeducational Learning for Life division of the Boy Scouts of America for people between the ages of 14 and 21.

Under the patient supervision of Lt. Rick Ferrarelli and Sgt. John Kovak, the impressionable teens are given the opportunity to participate in class work and field trips that expose them to the type of work the police in Jackson perform day in and day out.

On a recent evening, the Explorers visited a home in the community to examine its strengths and weaknesses in preventing burglars from breaking in.

As they prepare for the evening’s field trip, the youths banter with Ferrarelli in a classroom at police headquarters.

"Tonight we’re going to Stef’s house," said Ferrarelli, referring to Explorer Stefanie McCall, 16, who is in the 10th grade and is the group’s secretary/treasurer. "Will she have cheesecake for us all?"

Everyone laughs at the reference to a promised treat, but they are just as serious when it comes to respect for their advisers and their participation in the Explorers.

"Lt. Ferrarelli is a role model to us," said Stefanie, who has been an Explorer for the past year. "He’s an inspiration."

When asked why their adviser inspired them so greatly, the Explorers were quick to respond.

"His picture is in the high school Alumni Hall of Fame," said Josh. "His career is inspirational."

No less impressed was Matt Vreeland, 14, a ninth-grade student who is home-schooled.

"His work ethic is inspirational," said the young man.

"It’s actually because I buy pizza," said Ferrarelli, to the laughter of the Explorers.

A shared snack is a powerful motivator for some, but to all of the determined teens, getting the good grades required to remain in the Explorers is equally important. Academic accomplishment goes hand-in-hand with their achievements on the job since their police advisers assign the members a rank based on their performance in the group.

Justin Crisson, 20, who hopes to enroll in a law enforcement program, is a corporal in the Explorers; Kevin Friezziola, 16, a 10th-grade student, is a sergeant; and Brant Uricks, 16, a 10th-grade student, is a captain.

But success as an Explorer can sometimes have meaning beyond just doing a job well.

"My grandfather was a Hudson County police officer and my mother’s cousin is a lieutenant in the New Jersey State Police," said Chris Moschel, 16, a 10th-grade student. "I want to follow in their footsteps."

Chris’ father is also to accompany the Explorers this evening, as well as the father of Brianna DeAmicis, 14, a ninth-grade student.

Chris Dolias, 16, a 10th-grade student, rounds out the group as they depart for their destination in a retinue of cars and a police van. Several blocks away, the Explorers and their advisers arrived at their destination.

As they approached the house, Ferrarelli asked the group members to take note of the bushes and shrubs around the home.

"That was a problem 10 years ago," he said. "So many houses were set so far back in the woods that they were tempting targets. A burglar will attempt to break in if he has desire, ability and opportunity. We’re here to take the opportunity away."

Pointing to the elegant glass outer door, he said, "Most burglars won’t break a window; they’re going to kick in the front door."

The solution: insert longer reinforcing screws into the prehung door unit where it will accept them.

"Do you know what doors and locks are for?" asked Kovacs when a visitor accompanying the group questioned him further about the procedure of reinforcing them against intruders. "They’re for honest people."

As the Explorers and their advisers step into the home’s high-ceilinged foyer, with an office to its right side and a playroom to its left, Ferrarelli raised a hypothetical situation for the group members to ponder.

"You’re sleeping in the bedroom and you hear something and start to come down the stairway," he said. "What are we looking for here?"

After a discussion of various alternatives, Ferrarelli said the best solution would be replacement of the unsteady deadbolt in the front door and purchase of a double hung window for the playroom that could be secured with a key. Then the group examined the door leading from the front hallway to the home’s basement.

"This should be a solid core door with 3-inch screws in the hinges to trap potential thieves in the basement, a common point of entry," he said. "I don’t recommend putting bars on basement windows if the basement is used as a family room; you can’t get out."

While the group members continued their examination of the 4-year-old house, its owners, Steve and Dina Barreto, watched intently. After the patio door had been examined and the group began to file out, Ferrarelli turned to speak to them.

"We found a couple of things that were less than perfect, and we made some improvements, but overall, it was good," he told them.

Sometime later, back at the police station’s classroom, he discussed the importance of such positive community policing with the Explorers.

"A poor police officer does a Title 39 (a motor vehicle enforcement); a well-rounded officer goes out and tries to help citizens," said Ferrarelli. "The same hour you spend watching for a speeder, you can spend meeting someone in their home, complimenting them on how lovely it is. The hard thing about being a police officer is talking to people and letting your guard down."

As the youths listened intently, Ferrarelli continued his insight into what made an effective police officer.

"I really believe that if people in a community like the police that serve it, it’s going to be a much safer place in which to work," he said. "If the public has a good relationship with the police, they’ll make your job safer."

That lesson resonated with Explorer Matt Vreeland.

"My dad tells us all the time that when you see a policeman on the street, he’s there for two reasons," said the teen. "When you need help, and when he’s in trouble, he needs you."