Sheriff honored for child safety education
Sheriff Jim Tracy Tuesday became the first sheriff in the nation to receive a special award from radKIDS, and he says the honor shows how far Utah County's come in teaching children to protect themselves.
The founder of radKIDS, Stephen Daley, is in Provo this week to help train teachers, educators and law enforcement officers the techniques and skills children can use to fend off predators and avoid being victimized. He's also here to spotlight Tracy and Utah County as national leaders in efforts to give parents and children options for dealing with threats.
"It's been an ideal model in not just getting a few agencies involved but an entire community," Daley said.
The program, Tracy said, empowers children by showing them how to avoid dangerous situations, or if they get into one, how to escape.
Tracy has not only been instrumental in bringing the radKIDS program to Utah County, Daley said, but also in becoming an outspoken proponent of it to other law enforcement agencies in Utah and across the nation.
"Sheriff Tracy has been a driving force of the implementation of radKIDS and with his continuous support has the leading and most proactive program in the country," Daley said. More than 5,000 children in Utah County have received radKIDS education from their schools, he said.
Tracy was recognized for his work in promoting the group with radKIDS' Sam's Secret award, an honor Daley said has never been given to anyone outside the organization.
In accepting the award, Tracy said he was smart enough to see the value of the program and find someone, Utah County Deputy Dean Larsen and his wife, Alyson, to spearhead efforts to train children in the county.
"In a community that values families so highly, we should be endeavoring to help every kid come out of childhood unscathed," Tracy said.
The first three things all radKIDS know, Daley said, is that no one has the right to hurt them because they're special; they don't have the right to hurt anyone else unless they're trying to hurt them; and someone else hurting them is not their fault and they should tell someone they trust.
Children also learn that there are two kinds of strangers, good and bad, and that 911 is a number they can feel free to use when they feel threatened by someone. Larsen said several organizations within the county, including the Provo School District and schools in the Alpine and Nebo school districts have embraced radKIDS. And the program isn't just fluff and slogans.
He said there are hundreds of success stories of Utah County radKIDS children who avoided perilous situations by relying on their skills. Of 25 documented escapes by radKIDS-trained children, two of them happened in Utah County, Larsen said. They involved recent attempted kidnappings in Springville and Provo.
"And it can be replicated for pennies per child," Daley added.
The challenge, Tracy said, is to see that all schools and communities in Utah look at the program as "a total child protection program."
Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, sits on the radKIDS board of directors and is undergoing instructor training this week in Provo. He said what really separates radKIDS from similar programs is that it gives children options for dealing with danger.
"I haven't seen a program out there that has an impact like this one," Smart said.
Though he can't say for certain whether radKIDS training would have made a difference in his daughter's abduction, "it might have."
"It's a life skill that children will learn and teach to others for generations to come," Smart said. "Be prepared, not scared."
He applauded Tracy and other county leaders and organizations for getting behind radKIDS.
"There's no question Utah County is at the forefront," Smart said.
For information about radKIDS, go to www.radkids.org or contact Dean Larsen at 851-4335.
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D1.