Niles police care for community through fishing program

Published 9:07 pm Thursday, July 29, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Through its community fishing program, the Niles City Police Department is reeling in kids to show them another side of our city's police officers.
Niles City Police neighborhood liaison officer Kevin Kosten said it is important to let the kids know, especially at a young age, that police officers are on their side.
Kids often associate the police with crimes and taking people to jail, Kosten said.
The program, which began earlier this month, is taking every kid enrolled in the City of Niles' Summer Parks Program on a fishing trip to the Spaulding Lake Campground.
Throughout the summer, Kosten will be taking groups of 10 kids out to the campground for a chance to fish with a police officer.
The two stocked ponds at the campground provide a lot of action for the kids and guarantees that every one of them will catch something before they leave.
Earlier this week, the action was evident after Kosten helped Meghan Rifenberg repair her broken fishing line.
The 6-year-old, who was fishing for her first time, tossed her line back in the pond and seconds later she was reeling in a small blue gill.
Kosten helped her remove the fish from the hook and told her how to properly release the fish back into the pond.
After turning his back to assist another child, Rifenberg shouted "I got another one" as she pulled in her second blue gill in less than a minute.
Like Rifenberg, many of the kids are exposed to their first fishing experience through the program.
To help them remember the fun experience, Kosten takes a picture of the each kid with their catch and provides them with a copy.
Prior to the fishing excursions, he visits the program's three parks, Eastside, Southside and Clevenger Parks, to give the children an introduction. This gives them time to go over fishing and water safety and allows them to do some practice casting, so the kids are prepared for their day at the campground.
Walmart donated $1,000 to the program for supplies and prizes and has been a big supporter since it began four years ago.
As the neighborhood liaison officer, Kosten is often interacting with the community's youth in schools and out in the neighborhoods. He said another benefit of being involved with the parks program is that he gets to know a lot of the children in the community.