When police officer Mario Valenti responded to an alleged trespassing call from a gym and fitness club in Skokie, he could have taken a hard line. Instead, upon encountering the alleged trespasser—a 15-year-old aspiring basketball player—Valenti opened his wallet and offered the boy an opportunity.
According to the Chicago Tribune and a number of other news outlets, the situation began a few months ago when X-Sport Fitness realized they had a problem with a teen showing up to play basketball without a membership. The gym’s operation manager said that the boy would find clever ways into the facility. “All of our entrances and exits are blocked,” the manager said. “And, sure enough, he would just show up on the basketball court.”
The boy was caught by staff members a few times and was told to leave. An unaccompanied minor without a membership is an insurance liability, and repeated incidents could potential constitute criminal trespassing. In August, the gym made good on its threats to call the police, and Officer Valenti responded.
Looking to Help
Upon arriving, Valenti asked the teen what was going on and discovered that the boy had a membership previously but his mother could no longer afford the costs. What Valenti did next took everyone by surprise. He reached into his pocket and offered the gym $150, asking how many months that amount would cover for the teen. The gym was inspired by the officer’s offer and covered the remaining cost for a two-year membership—more than a $700 value.
The teen recognized the kind gesture and thanked the officer. From Valenti’s perspective, the decision was an easy one. “I’d rather have him playing ball than being on the street and possibly getting into trouble,” he told news outlets. Plus, he said that most police officers got into their line of work to help people, despite what is constantly being shown on the news. With a simple act, he was able to change at least one young person’s view of the police, which made the whole thing worth it.
Protecting Your Rights
Unfortunately, not all interactions with the police have such happy endings. While the police may help when they can, they are sometimes forced to make difficult decisions that result in someone being arrested. If this has happened to you or a loved one, it is important to seek legal help right away. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Will County to get the guidance you need. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.