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Helper City Police Department launching child safety, crime preventation programs

Staff writer

In an effort to make the city a safer place, Helper police department is in the process of launching two programs to benefit residents.

The first program is geared toward assisting local children.

The McGruff House program has been in effect across the state for several years, but seems to have fallen to the way side. Helper police are ensuring that the program resurfaces and becomes an escape for children in danger.

A McGruff House is a temporary haven for children who encounter emergency or frightening situations such as being bullied, followed, or hurt while walking in a neighborhood.

The house also provides a sense and a source of aid. It is not an escort service or a guarantee of safety, but a place for appropriate short-term help by an adult for a child.

Currently, approximately 50 private residences in the Helper city area already participate in the McGruff program.

The responsibilities the participating homeowners assume include:

•Telephoning appropriate authorities for help.

•Reassuring and assisting children who are frightened or lost.

•Assisting children who have medical emergencies by contacting appropriate professionals.

•Assisting individuals who fear becoming victims of personal crimes, such as abuse.

•Assisting people who have been victimized by crime by calling appropriate authorities.

•Reporting crime and suspicious activities to law enforcement officials, providing vehicle and suspect descriptions when possible.

Participants must be 18 years or older and agree to annual background checks.

All individuals who reside in a McGruff home will also be checked and must not have prior criminal convictions.

Program participants will be reviewed each year to make sure circumstances have not changed.

New residents to the home will also undergo background checks.

The police department's main intent of launching this program is to provide safety to the children of Helper. By involving the community, the law enforcement agency hopes to make the city a safer place for children to live and play.

The community is the eyes and ears of the city. Although the police department attempts to protect every child, it is an effort which requires an entire community to make the effort a success.

"We are focusing not only on community involvement, but also education. We are going into the local schools and explaining to the kids what the McGruff program is all about. If the kids don't know that homes with the McGruff poster in them are a safe places, then the community effort is worthless. We want every citizen in Helper to understand the significance of this unique program," explained Helper police chief, George Zamantakis.

The city's police department is currently in the process of educating Helper's citizens about the importance of the program.

The city's law enforcement officials are also hoping that the enrollment rate will increase with the education campaign.

A second program is also in the works, according to the police department. The program is designed to provide safety and information to Helper residents.

In fact, the neighborhood watch program allows citizens to become the eyes and ears of the community.

"By the end of this year, we hope to have this program up and in full swing. It provides us an opportunity to educate the community and keep them updated on what's happening in the area," explained Zamantakis.

The watch program would allow the police department to stay in touch with the Helper residents through a chain of informants.

"We would try to meet as often as possible with the leaders of the watch program. Then these leaders could go out and update their neighbors as to what is happening in the community," Zamantakis explained.

A prime example of how the program would work is the case of the Willow Creek mine explosion, according to law enforcement officials.

If the city of Helper had to be evacuated, the neighborhood watch participants would go door-to-door and inform neighbors of the situation. The result would reduce the amount of time that it would take law enforcement personnel to inform the residents of the circumstances and it also allows residents to stay in contact with their fellow neighbors.

"When we had the Heffelfinger murder suspects come through town, the neighborhood watch program would have been a big help. This would give us the chance to give everyone a heads up on what was going on," stated Zamantakis.

Any Helper resident who is interested in either the neighborhood watch or McGruff programs, citizens should contact the Helper Police Department or visit their website at

Helper officer, Kevin Saccomano is in charge of organizing both programs and can also be contacted at the police department or via e-mail at

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