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Young bicyclists to get treats for playing it safe

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GREENFIELD — Greenfield police on patrol this summer will be keeping an eye out for children on bikes and are prepared to issue tickets.

But the news is all good, provided those pedaling along are doing so while wearing a helmet. As part of a new program rewarding safe play, officers will be handing out tickets for free ice cream for those who put safety first.

Steve McCarley, a member of the Greenfield Police Department Bike Team, is spearheading the effort.

“We’re probably not going to get one to every kid we see with a helmet on, but we’re going to make an effort,” McCarley said.

McCarley admits the idea came from his wife, who read about an Ohio police department doing something similar.

“I just started reading through it, and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s pretty easy,’” he said. “All we have to do is get one of the ice cream places to hop on board, and away we went.”

Dairy Queen in Greenfield took up the charge.

“It’s promoting bicycle safety with kids,” assistant manager Patti Phelps said. “I thought it was really a good idea.”

Phelps coordinated with McCarley and provided the department with 100 coupons, each for a free small ice cream cone.

Those coupons are being distributed to the department’s first- and second-shift patrol officers with special instructions to keep on the lookout for children wearing helmets as they ride their bikes.

McCarley hopes the program sends the right message to both kids and parents about the importance of riding safely.

“Riding along, you never know what’s going to hop out in front of you or what’s going to happen,” he said. “… It’s always a good idea to protect your head.”

Police Chief John Jester said he hopes by rewarding those wearing helmets, officers can instill good habits in area youth.“If you can get a kid to start wearing it young, it’s kind of like a seat belt; it’ll be a learned habit,” Jester said.

McCarley has already handed out a few tickets to wide-eyed youngsters who weren’t exactly sure why they were being approached by a police officer.

“They didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “They get pretty excited when they find out they’re getting a free ice cream cone.”

Shaping a child’s perception of police officers from a young age is important, McCarley said, and the program also promotes positive interaction between police officers and children.

“Who wouldn’t be excited about getting a free ice cream cone from a police officer, and for doing something good?” he said.

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