Programs in Shawnee County aim to protect kids from danger

Parents in Northeast Kansas say the news of a 10-year-old Missouri girl who was abducted and murdered hits close to home.

“I just hope that never happens to my children,” says mother of six, Lara Copeland. She and others have a similar, heart-wrenching reaction.

“My heart breaks for that mom,” she adds.

Copeland talks to her kids frequently about what to do if a stranger approaches.

“We just tell them run screaming for the hills and scream fire,” Copeland says, “Because I know screaming children don’t usually turn many heads so I think fire, that makes them draw attention to themselves.”

At Wanamaker Elementary School, Principal Marc Sonderegger says this tragic story can be used to show kids the potential dangers.

“A lot of times we will use that for the classroom teacher or counselor to use that as a teachable moment,” he says.

When you’re child comes home, so can the prevention, says director of Safe Streets Kristi Pankratz.

“Neighborhood watches are basically the idea that the best crime deterent is a good neighbor,” she adds.

Pankratz says neighborhood watches are a way to have more eyes on the lookout.

“And if you have a particular problem arise, you can contact your neighbors and let them all know what’s going on,” she says.

Topekan Jared Holroyd has been part of a watch neighborhood for three years now.

“It’s very important that if there is somebody that’s driving through the neighborhood and they’re unknown and being unsafe or demonstrating some curious behavior that we are aware of that,” he says.

There are currently about 100 neighborhood watch groups formed through Safe Streets in Shawnee County.

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