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Cop Gives Troubled Kids New Direction

Growing up in Greenwich, Mark Zucharella was inspired by police officers to join the force. Now he’s leading Greenwich Police Department’s Youth Section – and helping today’s kids down the right path.

“This is the most fulfilling job I’ve had, helping kids,” Sgt. Zucharella said. “You see kids come up to you years later when they’re grown and say ‘thank you, you turned my life around.’”

Part of the last graduating class of St. Mary’s High School, Zucharella attended Sacred Heart University before completing his master’s degree at Barry University in Florida. He moved back to Greenwich and joined the force in 1999 as a neighborhood resource officer.

“When I was covering the West side of Greenwich, I realized I could really help kids and teenagers,” he said. “At that age if you get caught in a downward spiral, it’s hard to come back from it.”

He operated as a detective for the department before filling the opening in the Youth Section as Sergeant. “Our main job is to protect innocents and the innocent,” Zucharella said. “I look at it as, how you take care of the weaker people in society, defines how you are as a person.”

Currently, the Youth Section is in transition because of new state laws including the juvenile age limit rising from 15 to 16. Under Connecticut law, those under 15 must have a parent present before being questioned by police; however, 16-year olds can refuse that right. Also under new laws, 16-year-olds can be both a juvenile and an adult for the same situation.

“We’ve only had three instances where juveniles were also tried as adults so far,” said Zuccharella. “It makes it harder for us, but is actually better for the kids.” In 2012, the state is planning to make 17-year-olds juveniles as well. Zuccharella says he knows the Youth Section will be much busier when that happens, but is confident they can handle it.

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