BUSHWICK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- They're known for fighting crime but some New York City police officers in Brooklyn will also be known for fighting illiteracy, with a new program pushing reading to young people.
In an Eyewitness News exclusive, the program is a way to get books into the hands of students while also allowing cops to bond with today's youth.
Some of the police officers in Brooklyn North weren't making any collars Monday and that was OK. They were on a mission, but it wasn't rifles and tactical gear they were loading in the back of their police cars. It was books.
"For us, this is crime prevention," said Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, who is installing portable libraries in every precinct under his command in Brooklyn North, built by kids and filled with books, most of them donated by cops.
And he's encouraging officers to read to young people. Under the new plan, officers can spend a few minutes of their work day reading with kids or just encouraging them to read on their own.
But these are police officers. Their job is to fight crime. How does a truck full of books keep the crime rate low?
"For me, this is stepping out of the traditional lines of policing, good guys, bad guys, cops and robbers," said Maddrey. "This is crime prevention."
The chief says that 60 percent of people incarcerated are unable to read well enough to fill out a job application. Shamate Greenfield is in high school and he knows how important reading is.
"I want to go on to college, I want to do something with my life and go on to be a success," he said. "And if I don't know how to read, that's going to be very troubling."
And for the officers, it's as good as any collar. "To see someone smile and say 'Officer Melendez you've been my mentor', it touches my heart," said Officer Kenneth Melendez.
"Any police officer that takes the time to sit down and read with a group of young people and they do it two or three times, they'll have each one of those people in their heart," said Chief Maddrey. "And the connection will be there, and once the connection is there, that's when we'll start eliminating crime."
And that is rewarding for everyone.
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Exclusive: NYPD precinct launches program to promote literacy among kids