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Pa. chief adopts 'bike helmet for ice cream' program

Chief Thomas E. Szoke is borrowing the outreach program from another police department

By Kelly Monitz

WHITE HAVEN, Pa. — White Haven police Chief Thomas E. Szoke knows a good idea when he sees one.

That's why he is borrowing an outreach program from another police department and putting his officers on notice to issue as many tickets as possible throughout the community.

These tickets aren't punishment for bad behavior, but a reward for good behavior, and children 12 and under are the target group, he said. Children seen wearing their bike helmets will receive "tickets" for a free ice cream cone, Szoke said.

"My officers will have a quota for tickets," he said. "I am strongly encouraging my officers to write as many as they can, every shift, every day."

The program, called Operation Safe Summer, began in Brimfield, Ohio, where officers have been "ticketing" children for several years, its police chief, David Oliver, said.

"It is a huge success for our department," Oliver said. "We see more children outside than usual and lots of kids wearing helmets!"

One of Szoke's officers pointed out the Brimfield Police Department's Facebook page, which has nearly 50,000 "likes," or followers, he said. Szoke liked the program and contacted Oliver for permission to use the idea, he said.

"He said whatever you need," Szoke said.

He then contacted Woods Ice Cream, which agreed to work with the borough and immediately printed up tickets for the officers to issue to the children, he said. Children can use the tickets for a free cone at Woods at the White Haven Shopping Plaza or on Front Street in Freeland, Szoke said.

"This is the kind of ticket writing I really like," he said.

Szoke hopes this will be the first of many proactive programs the department will implement in the community, bringing children and officers together, he said.

Copyright 2013 the Standard-Speaker

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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