PAL, or the Police Athletic League, is a non-profit organization that brings together youth and police in a fun way. The league hosts camps and programs throughout the year in Wilson, and in many other communities. In 2016 alone, Wilson’s PAL chapter had 28 camps that engaged over local 700 youth. The 32 programs in total served closer to 800 youth.
For many youth, they may not have many opportunities to connect positively with law enforcement in a day-to-day setting. This can lead to distrust and misunderstandings that create a division between them and those who are there to protect and serve them. Through these camps, this division is erased as they build relationships with local police.
Local businesses and community groups partner with the Wilson Police Department to make the program possible. It is an element of the larger mission of community policing. These outreach methods to the community have led to a reduction in crime and increase in public trust of the police. When the youth and their parents know the police on a personal level, they’re more likely to come to them with problems.
The program began over 70 years ago and is common nationwide. Based out of Jupiter, Florida, many of these are now called “Police Activities Leagues” because they focus on other areas of the youth’s lives, like homework, mentoring, and leadership.
Wilson youth are encouraged to participate in any of the many programs of the PAL. Many of them are competitive, and sports related, including football, soccer, and basketball, and involve teams coached by local law enforcement. Wilson Police have donated over 17,000 hours of volunteer community service time to maintain the PAL program.