By Bennie Lewis
Special to Frost Illustrated
In July 1965, a discussion between Past Optimist International President Carl Bowen and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover resulted in the birth of the Respect for Law community activity. This is the fourth most popular Optimist activity with more than 1,500 clubs participating each year.
There is a menu of community projects to choose from—from Awards honoring Law Enforcement Officers and Citizens, to Projects to expose youth to the legal process.
The projects that were chosen as a collaboration by Optimist Fort Wayne Club and Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department are designed to expose youth/community to law enforcement officers and/or lawmakers; and to encourage youth and the entire community to obey the law. Among those projects is youth-directed campaign to teach people who to be safe in the city’s parks.
We surveyed the Parks Department youth centers and asked young people to come up with their top 10 safety tips to travel to and from the Parks. We then compiled the lists and came up with the best 10.
That list forms the core of a project designed to help youth educate their peers and others on how to be safe in the parks. Below is what students recommended:
Top 10 List to be Safe to and from the Parks
1. Walk with others. (Use a buddy system)
2. Pay attention to surroundings.
3. Stay out of the street.
4. Don’t talk to strangers; don’t go into strangers’ houses; don’t go to strangers cars.
5. Call parents to let them know when leaving and arriving, go directly to the Recreational Center
6. Self Defense. (Scream or run.)
7. When you see trouble, go the other way, stay away from danger
8. If you see a gun or knife or any weapon while walking to the park tell a staff member.
9. Call the Police when help is needed.
10. Say no to Drugs, Gangs and Violence
That youth-designed list has been printed up in poster form and is being posted in Parks Department facilities and parks throughout the city. Additionally, we are sponsoring three forums where law enforcement officers will come to the parks and speak on safe travel to and from the parks. The first was held June 10, with follow up sessions scheduled for June 27 and July 22. In weeks between those forums, officers will do follow-ups with youth throughout the summer to encourage use of the safety tips.
The Fort Wayne Police officers—Diane Rogers and Aaron Johnson—will be assisting us with this project.
For more information about the Respect for Law program, call (260) 427-6921.
Bennie Lewis is manager of Neighborhood Programs for the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreations Department.
This article originally appeared in the June 19, 2013 print edition.