SIDNEY — Safety Town is back in the community in time for children starting school this year.
“When it comes to Safety Town — it’s like school. You don’t realize what you’re learning until you get older, and realize what it’s done for you personally,” Community Resource Officer Bryce Stewart said.
Safety Town is a program for kindergarten-aged children that teaches them how to be aware of their surroudings and use their voice. Everything from crosswalk safety, to stranger danger, to intruders in schools, on top of how to contact 911 in an emergency and what to say to the operator on the line. Due to Safety Town being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Sidney Police Department is opening the program to children who haven’t participated in it yet.
“We try to show them that, to something that may be scary and new to them, it’s not scary to listen to a teacher,” Stewart said. “Safety Town, in a nutshell, is the goods and bads all round them. It’s a great course to amplify those things for those kids, and hopefully, maybe eventually someday, they can be helpers for those classes.”
According to Stewart, Safety Town has been a program in the Sidney community since the mid-1990s with community officers within the D.A.R.E. program. With each year, it has grown and expanded to include agencies and organizations in the community as young children start going to school. Each community resource officer has put their own spin on the program over the years, and this year, the program will be conjoined with RAD Kids, which Stewart describes as a child self-protection program and confidence-builder for children.
“If someone’s trying to cause harm, if it’s someone they don’t know, they can speak their words like, ‘you’re not my dad’ to alert the people around them that someone is not in their safe environment, or someone they know,” Stewart said.
Stewart added that the program has gotten better year after year, and that it’s grown in the aspect of how the environment around children has changed.
“Wherever you go, streets have gotten busier. More people are driving cars, more people are out and about — just for the kids to be aware of their surroundings is amplified even moreso,” Stewart said.
Safety Town starts Monday, Aug. 23, and runs through Friday, Aug. 26; the last day covers school bus safety and involves a trip to the Sidney Fire and Emergency services, as well as a trip to the park for a pizza party followed by a graduation ceremony. Stewart said that there are still spots open for Safety Town; for anyone interested in enrolling their child in the program, they can contact Stewart at 937-498-8722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This is kind of a big deal for parents. Their kids are leaving the house for the first time for Kindergarten, first grade — and you build that confidence that when their child’s out, they’ve been educated in some of those dangers and have built a positive realtionship with law enforcement. It’s imperative that we show those kids, we’re here to help them and protect them,” Stewart said. “To give them that comfort level and that good, positive relationship is huge at this age, because that just builds better community interaction down the road and throughout the rest of their lives.”
The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Police Department, 234 W. Court St., Sidney.