MP community policing initiative begins

Officer talks to Girl Scouts about safety
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—A community policing initiative kicked off Monday in Maple Park with a presentation by officer Andy Rissman to local Girl Scouts about staying safe.

Maple Park’s new police chief, Michael Acosta, announced when he was hired in January that he wanted to enhance safety in the village by bringing police and the community together through children’s programs and resident forums with officers.

Acosta said Rissman is an ideal officer to provide such programs.

“He seems to have a knack for talking to people, and he really believes in community policing,” Acosta said.

Rissman volunteered to help with Acosta’s initiative, which also is designed to encourage residents of all ages to know and trust the police.

“The only thing they used to see in town was a squad car pulling someone over for speeding,” Rissman said.

Rissman encouraged the girls to feel free to talk to the police whenever they have a concern.

Girl Scout Emma Bohm, 11, of Maple Park, thought Rissman was “really nice” and said she would feel comfortable approaching him in the future, if necessary. Emma said his safety presentation was “great.”

“I liked that he talked about what to do if you are in a sticky situation, and how to get out of it,” Emma said. “I also liked how he talked about Internet safety, because I go on the computer a lot.”

During the presentation, Rissman offered a multitude of safety tips to the Girl Scouts, offering scenarios of possible dangers they might encounter and what to do under those circumstances. He told them to walk in groups rather than alone, to run and yell if someone tries to accost them, to bite an attacker’s hand so that he lets go, and to tell their parents if someone they do not know tries to communicate with them online.

Rissman also advised the Scouts to remember details such as the color and number of doors of any car whose driver approaches them, and the direction the vehicle goes; then, they can tell police and increase the likelihood that the perpetrator will be apprehended.

Other programs that Acosta is planning to teach safety and acquaint children with officers include puppet shows and storytelling.

Photo: During a community policing presentation at the Civic Center Monday, Maple Park Police Officer Andy Rissman encouraged his audience, a group of local Girl Scouts, to use the skills gained as Scouts to be leaders, not followers, to avoid unsafe or illegal activities such as underage smoking and drinking, and vandalism. Photo by Martha Quetsch