Another Oak Park Police Department community outreach program is celebrating its 18th year this week. And its popularity has risen steadily year to year.

The police-run summer day camp for young boys and girls, 8-14, began Monday and runs through Friday of this week.

“It’s at capacity this year. It’s our largest camp ever,” Sgt. Dave Jacobson said.

Eighty kids signed on for the free camp, which Jacobson said helps teach the basics of the game.

“It’s a chance for kids to come and play basketball, learn a little bit about basketball, sportsmanship [and] teamwork with police officers,” Jacobson said.

The camp is run by resident beat officers, who are all required to live within the neighborhoods they oversee. It’s another way the police department tries to forge connections with members of the community — in this case, with much younger members of the community.

“It’s a chance for them to see us in a light that’s a little bit different from how they would normally see us,” Jacobson said. “It’s a chance to see us as normal people, too, and get to know us, and us to get to know them, so that we can build that relationship early.”

But there’s plenty of time for plain old fun, too.

“We love it. It’s been popular for a long time now,” Jacobson said.

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