Some children who are home alone from school while their parents work are enjoying special visitors who want to help keep them safe.
At least four area police agencies have announced that, at the request of a parent, an officer will stop by and check on a child or children who live within their coverage area.
“It’s received great reception so far,” said Coloma Township Police Chief Wes Smigielski.
His department, along with Dowagiac police and police in Hartford and Bangor, have announced the availability of the welfare checks.
“I have been checking on a lot of kids at the request of the school. It has been funny to see people’s faces when they realize a police officer is literally just stopping by to say hello,” said Patrolman Dan Stuglik, Coloma’s school resource officer.
“It’s especially true with adults that are home when I visit. The kids are used to me since I eat lunch with them and sit by them in art class, but parents usually relate my face to a traffic stop or something less pleasant. I’ve enjoyed the smiles,” he said.
Smigielski said parents or guardians who would like an occasional welfare check on their children should call the local police department or their child’s school. He said school officials are working with police to identify possible at-risk kids who should be checked on.
In Dowagiac, police will check on children who live within the city limits who are forced to be home alone while their parents work.
Dowagiac Director of Public Safety Steven Grinnewald said in a news release announcing the visits that his department got the idea from Bangor Police Department.
Grinnewald said people requesting a visit should include the name and age of each child at the residence, the address and parent’s name and contact information.
He and Smigielski said children should never open their doors to a stranger.
“Kids should make sure it’s us before opening the door,” Smigielski said. “Our officer will be in uniform and a marked police car will be outside within view. If there’s a knock at the door and you don’t see a marked squad car, don’t open the door.”
He said as an added precaution, the police officer will know the name of the child’s mother, father or guardian.