I can’t think of many things as scary as having one of our students attacked or abducted on their way to or from school. Our kids should be safe walking around town, especially during the day.
It’s been more than a month since the first of several attempted abductions was reported in Ukiah, and our officers have been spending as much time as they can providing extra patrols, following through on every investigative lead we receive, and working hard to educate local students through the stranger danger program, which teaches kids of all ages what to do if they are approached or attacked.
Our last school presentation is scheduled for today. During the last month, we teamed up with Ukiah schools and a local self-defense expert to provide stranger danger training in all Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD) elementary schools, Pomolita Middle School, local charter schools, private schools and alternative schools in our community.
We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the assistance of some really committed people and I’d like to thank them. Each school principal and teacher gave up valuable classroom time for our assemblies; and our UUSD superintendent and school board were the best partners we could have in our efforts to investigate these incidents, get information out to the public and schedule these trainings.
I’d also like to thank the people presenting the self-defense instruction: our school resource officer Vince Morse and private trainer Louis Maldonado, along with some of Louis’s students. During the training, the students who worked with Louis to demonstrate self-defense techniques showed a lot of courage to get up in front of their entire schools.
Most importantly, I’d like to acknowledge the work parents do to keep their children safe. By supporting the stranger danger program in the schools, encouraging their children to participate, and reinforcing the stranger danger lessons at home, parents help their students become better prepared to deal with unexpected situations.
Louis Maldonado says it’s really the parents who make the difference. Students need to know how to be safe. Although Louis is a grand master in martial arts, he tells parents, “This is not about martial arts; anyone can kick or punch. It is about being BRAVE AND CONFIDENT, being able to speak, yell, move, run. Your student’s voice is their weapon.”
Louis recommends that we, as parents, teach our students who walk to and from school to pay attention and know what is going on around them. Students need to create individual plans of action to protect themselves in case they are approached or assaulted. They need to know how to use their voices to help protect them—to bring attention to themselves when in danger.
In each of the press releases the school district and the police department have published, we have emphasized the following safety tips. I can’t tell you how important it is that parents take time to discuss these points with their children:
Don’t talk to strangers.
Be aware of your surroundings
Stick together. There’s safety in numbers.
Practice basic self-defense. A swift kick to shins or private parts should get the attention of people in the area.
Lock doors, especially if home alone.
Along with traveling to and from school, children can be at risk if they are left at home alone. Children should know how to reach a parent or another trusted adult on the phone, understand what to do if a stranger comes to the door, and how to call 911 and what information an emergency dispatcher will need (including address and emergency contact numbers).
If you’d like to know more about this, or get some additional resources to discuss with your children, go to the UPD website and click on the “Missing, Exploited and Child Safety Resources” tab.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.
By: Chris Dewey - Chief of Police