Police warn parents of gang recruitment online ahead of school starting.

With the school year beginning, police across the country have some warnings for parents.

“We’ve all slipped into that summer mode where we’ve kind of let our guard down and we’re in relaxation mode,” Officer Chuck McPhilamy, the public information officer with Marietta Police Department said.

He added that safety starts at home, by keeping an eye on who and what your kids are interacting with each day, especially when it comes to the internet.

“Whether you’re my age and you are talking about how could you possibly sneak out of the house or whether you’re someone much younger and now you’re looking at how can I use apps to communicate back and forth? The reality is kids will still be kids. And we’re asking the parents to become more conscious of the risks that the Internet gives those children,” said McPhilamy explained.

He noted one of the biggest risks is gangs using social media and videos to recruit kids.

McPhilamy said parents need to keep an eye out for warning signs and take steps to keep their kids safe.

“By giving them that cell phone, the tablet, the computer, the laptop, all of those are giving them unlimited access to would be predators,” he explained. “We need the parents to become aware of where those danger spots are. Put limits on the screen time. Be conscious about what your children’s behavior is.”

McPhilamy added that one of the worst calls police get, when it comes to cyber security, is when a child became a victim.

“That child got lured into bad behavior or lured into a situation where they were convinced that because they may not be prosecuted as an adult, that suddenly it’s okay for them to go out and do something egregious to break the law for the benefit of that gang,” said McPhilamy. “That breaks a police officer’s heart. The more that we can do to try and prevent those children from being lured into that wrong path, the better we can protect them and give them the bright future that we all want them to have.”

He encouraged parents to not only get to know their kids’ teachers and school resource officers, but also their local police department.

On Tuesday, Police joined the 911 center in an event to help make those connections, handing out free school supplies to kids ahead of going back to school next week.

People who work at the center raised enough money to have enough kits for 150 children.

“We collected money from our staff on the floor and our administrator side and put together school supplies to give back to the community, but also give them a chance to come in, talk to us, put a face with the voice if they ever do have to call 911,” said Theresa Carcioppolo, a communications training officer with the Center.

But, she also said the event was an opportunity to educate the kids.

“Sometimes with the little kids, hearing a voice is one thing, but knowing that they’ve seen a face behind that voice, it kind of helps them talk to us,” she said. “We do ask a lot of questions and sometimes they don’t understand why they’re being asked those questions. This gives us a chance to explain why we asked those questions.”