Keeping kids safe was the focus of a recent “stranger danger” seminar held at Warren Levi Karate and Fitness in Cedarhurst, which was packed with local residents and their kids.
“I would do anything in my power to protect kids in the community,” owner Warren Levi said. “We do these events on a regular basis.
One of the key points Levi made was that some strangers are dangerous, while others are not, so it’s important to differentiate between the two. If an incident occurs with a “bad” stranger, it’s important to get help right away from “good” strangers like police officers, teachers, counselors, security guards and parents, he said. In emergency situations, kids can ask a woman with children for help, he added. Levi also made it clear that strangers don’t all fit into a certain mold — they come in all shapes and sizes, ages and genders.
But above all, he told the children never to talk to strangers and to get away quickly if they are approached by one. Kids should know their name, address, phone number, how to use a telephone and how to call 911. They should never approach any car, and if someone tries to approach them in a car, they should try to remember the license plate number and report the situation right away, he said.
Levi kept things lively for the kids, who ranged in age from toddlers to young teens, with role playing, interactive exercises and calling on volunteers for demonstrations. This included giving kids a couple of minutes to practice using their parents’ cell phones.
If a child is suddenly taken against their will, “do anything in your power to get away — stop, drop and roll,” Levi said. The kids especially enjoyed practicing this technique, which includes shouting for help.
”Say no if someone asks you to find something or if someone asks you to go into their house,” he said.
One parent playfully pretended that he was a strange man tempting various kids with a Nintendo game. All the kids in the audience shouted out a resounding “No!”
Levi used the term “magic bubble” to describe personal space and keeping an appropriate distance from strangers. He demonstrated, with an audience volunteer, how much easier it is to flee from a stranger if you are a safe distance away.
Levi used an overhead projector to display his talking points, as well as illustrations from McGruff the Crime Dog literature, the well-known cartoon child safety mascot that’s been around for years and used in public service announcements, schools and other applications.
Levi, who is certified in bullying and stranger danger, said that besides running these special seminars several times a year, the school’s instructors incorporate a few safety techniques into all of their children’s classes.
Other tips included not taking shortcuts when walking somewhere and never to play in isolated places.
“Don’t go to a park or anywhere by yourself," he said. "Always go with a buddy, and always stay near your buddy.”
Guest speaker Gary Schall, superintendent of the Lawrence School District, discussed the importance of exercise.
“Studies show that even if you hit the books all day long, you will only get just so smart,” Schall said. “But if you balance out your studies with physical activities, research shows that you will do better academically. These days, there is a lot of childhood obesity and health issues. People have forgotten the importance of the physical fitness.”
Schall lauded Levi’s efforts in providing the community with these stranger danger classes.
“I probably will be calling in Warren to do one of these presentations at the school soon,” he said.