Books used in police outreach
Officers get kids books to hand out during crises, patrols.
By DAVE STEPHENS
Tribune Staff Writer
SOUTH BEND — South Bend police officers were handed a new crime-fighting tool on Tuesday — backpacks filled with children's books.
Police received 100 backpacks, each filled with 10 to 12 children's books, from the "With Wings & a Halo — REACH a Child" organization, which provides police departments with books to hand out to children.
With Tuesday's donation, the South Bend Police Department became the first in the state to use the program, which started two years ago in Wisconsin and has spread to 10 states. Next week, police in LaPorte also will begin participating in the program.
The fast-growing program relies on a simple concept — providing police with children's books to distribute during emergency situations.
Sgt. Lee Ross said officers can hand out the books to children they meet — at the scenes of car accidents, patrolling through neighborhoods or while officers talk with their parents.
Ross said the books will help build relationships with children as well as calm them down during emergencies.
All of the books and backpacks were donated to the department from the nonprofit "With Wings and a Halo" organization, which received many of the books as donations.
Mike Roe, executive director of the organization in Indiana, said the goal is twofold: to help encourage literacy in children and to put a smile on the face of a child in a time of need.
There are no costs to the department for participating in the program, and officers can volunteer to carry the backpacks in their cars. Each backpack will carry a variety of books, suitable for children up to 12 years of age.
South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins praised the program and said it can help reduce crime in the future.