Personal safety first

By Bella Travaglini/ bella.travaglini@cnc.com
Thursday, February 9, 2006

Danvers kids this spring will participate in a national program that empowers children with personal safety tools, police announced last week.
"The idea behind this program is to reinforce skills kids already have through our talks with them about stranger safety while walking to school," Sgt. Robert Bettencourt said. "This program takes those skills one step further in case these kids fall victim to an abduction attempt."

Since 1998, radKIDS, Inc. has educated children and their parents on safety and protection skills to keep them from harm and help thwart abduction attempts. The organization estimates that 797,500 children are reported missing each year in this country, with another estimated 10,000 children opting to stay home from school to avoid peer bullying.

As a first step in implementing the program, police last week distributed an informational flyer to Girl Scout leaders previewing the program, Bettencourt said. By springtime, Police plan to bring the program on the road to the elementary schools after introducing it within this smaller, controlled group.
Bettencourt and D.A.R.E. Officer Olivia Silva earlier this month attended a 30-hour radKIDS training in Topsfield, where they were educated in providing hands-on tips and techniques for children in dangerous or abusive situations. Curriculum topics included Internet safety, predator tricks and physical resistance strategies against abduction, according to the organization.

Police anticipate a strong reception to the program and encourage other members of the community to obtain certification. Community leaders such as teachers, karate and pre-school instructors from other North Shore communities participated in the three-day program, Bettencourt said, and he foresees members of the Danvers community stepping up.

"We will be looking at expanding our instructors if the program takes off like we anticipate it will," Bettencourt said.

RadKIDS is based on the RAD self-defense training program for women, which Danvers Police have provided through certified officers for more than two years. Introducing this program to kids is a natural progression, Betten Funding for rolling out the radKIDS program will come from a $50,000 state community-policing grant awarded for the current fiscal year, police said.

RadKIDS, Inc. is headquartered in South Dennis and has more than 1,800 community-based instructors trained in 44 states and Canada. According to the organization, 75,000 children have completed the program to date. Twenty-five kids escaped abduction and returned home safely by using their radKIDS skills.

For more information, contact Sgt. Robert Bettencourt at 978-774-1213, ext. 134, or visit the radKIDS Web site at www.radkids.org.


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