By Sarah Reese
Original article here.
Police have jump-started a program this summer designed to teach children about bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Kids who visit the Hammond Safety Village can take a spin around the miniature town on bikes, walk the “streets” with a police officer and watch several safety videos.
Taylor Durnavich, 7, visited the village Friday with Krystal’s Kastle Childcare in Hammond.
“I learned that when you go walking, you have to go in the white lines and you have to watch out for cars,” she said.
Krystal’s Kastle owner Shellie Vicari said she brought the group to the Safety Village because it’s fun and educational. Her husband, Hammond police Lt. Patrick Vicari, oversees the program.
The Safety Village at 5825 Sohl Ave. was built several years ago, but sat dormant in recent years, he said.
This year, police are using money from a pedestrian and traffic safety grant to reopen the village and also have focused on speed limit enforcement in school zones, Vicari said. The department is not using the grant money to target jaywalkers, which led to some controversy in the past after police were accused of racial profiling.
Participation at the Safety Village so far has been limited, Vicari said, but he hopes it will pick up as people learn the facility is open.
“We want people to come in here,” he said. “We’re trying to do something good here.”
Children who walk with an officer will learn about crosswalks, stop signs, traffic signals and railroad crossings. They will get to push buttons and wait for a walk signal.
Kids also will get to talk with officers and find out police “are human beings, too,” he said.
Volunteers with the city’s College Bound scholarship program will provide additional supervision to ensure safety. Kids can bring their bikes, but there is a contingent of traditional and pedal bicycles refurbished by Vicari and Streets Department Director Gary Gleason available for kids to ride.
The facility is open to children age 3 and up. The Safety Village will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Fridays through Aug. 12.
Vicari said he also will work with groups interested in scheduling private events. Anyone interested should call the Traffic Division at (219) 852-2911.