There is a greatly increased police presence on the campus of middle schools in Rowan County, and it's a welcome one. Now, all the middle schools have their own school resource officer.
Those positions were taken away from most middle schools in 2009 and it left many in the community upset.
This year, grants from the state and approval from the local Board of Education helped to do that, the sheriff's office and the police in the various municipalities also were helpful and very much thought having a steady police presence at the middle schools was important.
He could be anywhere, outside, in the cafeteria, roaming the halls, but for China Grove Police Officer Reese Helms, this jobs is more than walking a beat.
"Wow, it' s been a really busy first month, it's all new," Helms told WBTV. "It's completely different than anything I've ever done in law enforcement."
Helms is the resource officer at China Grove Middle School, one of 7 such positions in the county. To show their commitment, the police department gave Helms patrol car a red stripe for his China Grove Red Devils, instead of the typical black stripe.
His job is to enforce the law, protect the students, and help in other ways.
"I try to get them to see me as a person. I attend classes, I go to lunches and just sit down with them and talk to them on their level," Helms added.
"He's an officer when he needs to be but he's a friend you can come to," said 7th grader Katie Kannenberg. "I like Officer Helms, he's super funny and he's helpful and he makes us all feel safe, he's super protective and he's someone I can look up to."
Students we spoke with say they like having an officer on campus, and they say it is a deterrent to crime.
"Some kids won't do like they usually do," said 8th grader Aaron Kendall. "Like if they know they're about to get in trouble, about to do something, they see the resource officer they might think I don't want to end up in a bad life or go to juvey or something and so they'll not do it."
School leaders say while safety is a big part of it, there is more that a resource officer can provide.
"Work with them, help them understand some things, whether good or bad and building them up and not just about school but about real life," said China Grove Middle School Principal Dennis Hobbs. "The safety, having an extra person here, having a police officer on site gives everyone a feel of support and that safety here at the school."
Helms told me among the things he's trying to help students with is social media. With the recent cases involving students in Rowan County, he says cyber bullying and sexting are pretty common, so that's one thing he's hoping to educate students about while serving in the school.
For the current school year, Shanita Millsaps, the RSO at Knox Middle is provided by the Salisbury Police Department, at Erwin Middle, Rowan Sheriff's Deputy Tommie Cato is the RSO.
Officer Kenny Isenhour of the Landis Police Department serves at Corriher-Lipe Middle School, while Spencer Officer John Reep serves at North Rowan Middle.