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Safety first: Second annual NR Family Safety Night Dec. 1

Alison Feigh will present at the upcoming Family Safety Night being held at the New Richmond Middle School Thursday, Dec. 1. "I can play it safe" is one of Feigh's books that focus on helping families keep their children safe.

Online footprint will be the focus

Safety, family and community will be the highlights of the second annual Family Safety Night sponsored by the New Richmond Police Department and other area law enforcement, the schools and area businesses Thursday, Dec. 1.

“Last year we had our first Family Safety Night …working with the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department and the counselors at the elementary schools, it was a great night,” New Richmond Police Chief Craig Yehlik said.

This year’s event should be even better, the chief added.

With Alison Feigh, the program manager at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, set to make a return appearance at this year’s program, Yehlik said the focus will be online content and most specifically, one’s online footprint.

Feigh’s presentation last year focused on various safety concerns and in an interview regarding the 2015 event, Feigh said that, “Personal safety is just like every other kind of safety. You need to have a plan of where you will meet if there is a fire at your house or there’s a storm and your kids need to know your family rules and what to do if someone tries to get them to break a family rule.”

Working with the county sheriff’s department last year, enough money was raised to purchase Feigh’s children’s book, “I Can Play It Safe.” And in addition to purchasing copies of the books for the area schools, it provided the local police department a segway into allowing officers to get into the classroom to work directly with students. Over the course of the past year, the officers spent time in area elementary classrooms reading Feigh’s book to students and talking about how to stay safe.

“We had a really good turnout last year; so we expanded the scope this year,” Yehlik said. “Last year we had a place in the gym for the kids to go with the members of the New Richmond High School dance team. Alison Feigh came in and spoke to parents on how to talk to children about sensitive subjects. So we’re bringing her back … she will be talking about protecting a child’s digital footprint.”

While the Dec. 1 event is open to the community, Feigh will will talk to public and St. Mary Catholic School students over the course of the two days prior to the evening event at the middle school.

New Richmond Police Chief Craig Yehlik.“Anyone can attend and those present will have a chance to win an iPad or iTunes gift cards,” Yehlik said.

Feigh will work directly with students over the course of two days — Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Parents will have the opportunity to hear Feigh’s message starting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1. The dance team will once again provide child care services for the youth while the parents listen to Feigh’s presentation in the middle school auditorium.

In association with the safety night, the schools have undertaken surveys of students’ online habits — information that will be available at the safety night and something that Feigh will look at as part of her presentation.

Patrick Olson, superintendent of schools, said that he and the entire district are excited about partnering with community businesses and law enforcement to help educate and keep children safe.

“I am in full support of this initiative and look forward to doing it again this year,” Olson said.

Yehlik doubled down on Olson’s comment, saying, “We’re trying to keep kids safe and knowledgeable. We can’t arrest our way out of problems and I think anyone will find this program valuable. Do you know your online footprint? If this helps to protect kids online, it only makes sense to protect our own online imprint. What people can find out about you in five or six clicks ... that’s the important message here … it’s about what one can do to protect oneself.”

For instance, Yehlik said that if you’re posting online that you’re on vacation … thieves can take that online information and use it to target individuals.

And that’s just one small example.

“The New Richmond Police Department takes an active stance on this education thing … yes, we’re here to enforce the laws, but we’re also here to educate to get people up to speed to protect themselves, which I think is a huge step in the right direction for the community and the police department as a whole,” Yehlik said

“Our goal is to take the proactive approach … we’ve been stuck in the reactive mode. What we do proactively will help cut down on thefts and burglaries and other crimes … and that’s a step in the right direction,” he added.

The chief also said he would love to see hundreds attend this free event.

“I think it’s going to be really good,” he said.

For more information, call the New Richmond Police Department at 715-246-6667 or the school district at 715-243-7411.