By Michelle Talsma Everson
Keeping kids safe is a top priority and the Hands On Safety program, ran by the Scottsdale Police Department (PD) Foothills District Crime Prevention Team, was created to do just that. “The Hands On Safety is designed to engage with children to help them make decisions about their safety,” says Officer Rob Katzaroff.
Inspired by a similar program, Hands On Safety is focused on educating children at community and school events. “Kids are given information on safety by officers to cover both fire and police matters. They are taught about calling 911, fire safety, bike safety, gun safety, car safety, water safety, and stranger danger. As a pledge to stay safe, the kids are given an opportunity to place their handprint on a police car and get their picture taken with an officer, and if supplies last, are given a coloring book to reinforce the message,” Katzaroff explains.
The program was started by former Scottsdale Police Department Officer David Kamleiter and current Police Aid Sherri Hawkinson. “One of our officers had heard of something like this being done at another agency [placing handprints on a police car] and suggested it to our team as a potentially fun idea to do in conjunction with some of the events we do out in the community,” Hawkinson says.
Before the initial pandemic shutdowns, the officers tested the event concept at two events, and it was a hit. “The smiles from everyone involved have been so worth it,” Hawkinson says. “Officer Katzaroff transferred into crime prevention during COVID and had been chomping at the bit to get out and interact with people in-person. As soon we got the blessing from upper staff, he started planning on how to get this program rolling again and started incorporating it with school safety visits…Once the weather cools off a bit, I’m sure you’ll be seeing a bunch more of these events.”
As the Hands On Safety program gets back out into the community, it is available to Scottsdale-based schools and community organizations upon request and availability.
“The Hands On Safety program is designed to help foster positive relationships between the community and police department in a fun, interactive way while, at the same time, helping to keep our kids safe,” says Katzaroff. “As crime prevention officers and police aides, our goal to form partnerships with our communities and help reduce crime.”