WIMAUMA: Changing the perception of law enforcement

Published on: June 13, 2018

Full-time sheriff’s deputy assigned to

Wimauma Boys & Girls Club

By LOIS KINDLE

The Wimauma Boys & Girls Club is a safe, nurturing place for kids from low-income families to spend their summers and after-school hours. It’s also a place where those same children get to interact with a sheriff’s deputy, whose role is to help them see the police in a positive light.

Efrain Taveras, 53, a 14-year veteran of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, was recently assigned to work full time at the club to interact with the kids and be someone they can emulate.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Efrain Taveras reviews a Summer Bridge learning activity with 9-year-old Horace Porter at the Wimauma Boys & Girls Club, where he is assigned full time to interact with the summer-school and after-school kids.
LOIS KINDLE PHOTO

“My role here is to change their perception of how children see law enforcement,” he said. “I think it’s an awesome idea.”

Taveras added that by teaching the kids leadership, discipline and respect, his influence could keep some kids from joining gangs and help them become productive members of society.

“These are at-risk children from low-income families and many are below grade level,” he said. “Most have migrant parents, and all are students at Reddick or Wimauma elementary schools.”

Ally Saenz, assistant director of the Wimauma Boys & Girls Club, said the children truly benefit from Taveras’ presence.

“I think it’s extremely important to have him here,” she said. “He shows them that deputies can be friendly and helpful to them and their families, which is entirely different than the experience many have had with law enforcement. The kids love him.”

Tavares speaks their language, both in English and Spanish. He was born in the Dominican Republic and was the ninth of 11 children.

In 1978, he migrated with his parents and three of his siblings to Lawrence, Mass. After graduating from Greater Lawrence Technical High School in 1984, he went back to the Dominican Republic and joined a seminary. During his five years there, he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.  

In 1994, Taveras became a social worker for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 2003, after moving to Tampa with his wife Ninell and their three children, he heard the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office was looking to hire Spanish-speaking deputies for the Hispanic community.

“I jokingly submitted an application, and to my surprise I was called for an interview,” he said. Sworn in on Jan. 31, 2005, he became a patrol deputy and worked the streets until his assignment to the Boys & Girls Club in May.

“It’s a natural fit for me to work with these kids,” said Taveras, who resides in Apollo Beach with his family. “If I can impact two or three of them to become successful, I will consider my mission accomplished.”    

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is a  Boys & Girls Club partner. It has provided a part-time deputy at the Wimauma club since it opened in 2015. Until recently, Community Resource Deputy Jeff Merry filled that role.

The Wimauma Boys & Girls Club at Bethune Park, 5809 Edina St., Wimauma, offers a low-cost summer camp, which offers the Summer Bridge Learning program, sports, games and assorted enrichment activities and an after-school program that features homework and tutoring; safe computer usage and online etiquette; athletic activities; healthy lifestyle training; arts, crafts and games; and the Smart Kids program, including drug prevention.

For more information, to volunteer or to make a tax-deductible donation to this 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, email rpeacock@bcgtampa.org or call 813-938-1839.

 

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