On October 1, officers from the Salt River Police Department came to the Early Enrichment Program to speak to the children, ages 3 to 5, about the concept of “stranger danger.”
Lata Sitake and Tori Paukgana, youth development specialists with the Early Enrichment Program, invited Det. Vicente Cendejas and Sgt. Jeremiah Rangel to visit the children and gently explain to them how
to handle various potentially dangerous situations.
“My daughter is in the class, and I was asked by one of the teachers if [the Salt River Police Department] could do something for the young children, as they would be discussing safety topics for Safety Week,” said Rangel . “I spoke with Detective Cendejas so we could go over Stranger Danger, 9-1-1 and other helpful hints for their age group. And as always with the youngsters, police badge stickers and pencils are always a hit.”
The officers asked the children if they knew what a stranger was, explaining they should never go off with a stranger. They explained that a uniformed police officer was someone they could always trust when they felt they were in danger.
The children also identified swimming pools, ditches and the road as dangerous places.
When the officers asked if someday any of the kids would like to become police officers, many said yes.
“The experience left a lasting impression on me when I was their age, and to be honest, it was the first spark in my interest in becoming a police officer,” said Rangel, recalling a police officer visiting his school when he was in kindergarten or first grade, and how he got to sit behind the wheel of a police car and turn on the lights and siren. “Officer Cendejas and I just paid it forward by letting the kids do the same.
“And who knows, maybe one day one of the children we spoke to will grow up to be a police officer. We enjoyed the time we spent with the children and hope they had fun as well.”