Sheriff’s Kidzwatch program teaches children about safety
By Karen Brainard
About 75 children, along with many parents, learned about safety from San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers, and firefighters in Ramona Library recently.
The department’s Kidzwatch program for children ages 5 to 9 taught three hours of safety education and activities. It concluded with Lt. Julie Sutton of the Ramona sheriff’s station handing out junior deputy badges.
The safety education included when to call 911, bullying, stranger danger, and bike, gun
and fire safety “in a language kids can understand,” said Melissa Aquino with the sheriff’s public affairs office.
“We want them not to be afraid of firefighters and deputies,” she said.
Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Specialist Barbara Wallace led the program and told the children: “Deputies are there for when you need help. When you see them in Ramona, you can wave to them.”
After explaining that calling 911 should only be for emergencies such as a fire, crime, injury or sickness, Wallace asked the children if they should call 911 if they have a cat up in a tree, to which many responded “yes.” She said that may be an emergency for them but not important enough to call 911.
Wallace also asked the group where they should go if they lose their parents in a store. Children answered, saying “where they keep the food,” and “where the money is.”
Listening to parents is also important, Wallace told the children.
“Just listen to your parents. That’s a big thing,” she stressed.
McGruff the crime dog made an appearance, sitting on Wallace’s lap and singing about saying no to drugs, cigarettes and other dangers.
California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Christy talked about bike safety and let the children have a peek inside a CHP car.
Deputy Jess Allensworth gave a review of knife and gun safety.
“You treat every gun like it has bullets and you don’t touch it,” he said.
Allensworth pulled out a pen and told them it was his most powerful tool because his job requires a lot of writing.
“Reading and writing is very important,” he told the young ones.
Each child attending also received a free Kidzwatch T-shirt.
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