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Guest column: Help keep kids safe this summer

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opinion Farmington, 55024
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

Warm weather has finally arrived and summer break is upon us. With the warm weather, the city of Farmington comes alive again. Though the vast majority of youth are out having innocent fun, the absence of daily structure (school) can often open the door to juvenile crimes. I wanted to pass on a few tips to keep parents, students and your property safer this summer. I also thought it prudent to relay some city/county ordinances that parents are often unfamiliar with which may affect your child this summer.

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Many juvenile crimes are crimes of opportunity: an unplanned crime, or a crime of convenience. Many do-it-yourself crime prevention tips are designed to eliminate such crimes. None of these tips are cutting edge but are very valuable if exercised daily. The one time you are not vigilant you may fall victim to a person who found your lapse convenient Your child should keep their belongings within eyesight if they are playing at the park. This obviously applies to any property your child may have with them: skateboard, backpack, iPod, cell phone, etc. All valuables should be stowed away in a backpack, purse, or pocket.

I encourage you to record the serial number on your child's bike. Stolen bicycles are often spray painted which makes them hard to identify when recovered. The serial number can often be found on the bottom side of the frame near the pedals.

Even though I can hear your child groaning as I type this, I encourage you to review the dangers of commuting around town independently. Take time to point out the danger of riding a bicycle/skateboard with earphones on and review basic procedures of crossing major intersections. Also, consider basic safety equipment like a helmet and wrist/knee pads. To avoid injury, discuss with your child their ability level and limitations if they are compelled to get more "extreme" on their skateboard or bike.

I urge parents to keep in close communications with their child when they go out and about. We rely on parents to ensure their children are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. As a reminder, Dakota County curfew restrictions are as follows:

Under 12: Sunday-Thursday 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Age 12-14 Sunday-Thursday 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.; Friday & Saturday 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Age 15-17: Sunday-Thursday 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.; Friday and Saturday Midnight to 5 a.m.

Another widely unknown/misunderstood ordinance is the city of Farmington's restriction on instruments which propel projectiles. Ordinances 6-1-5 and 6-1-15 restrict the use of any instrument that compresses air to propel projectiles (e.g., BB, pellet, paintball and Airsoft guns) as well as firearms, bows, and slingshots within the city limits. Our patrol officers have seen a steep increase in dispatches involving people playing with Airsoft guns. These dispatches are often stressful for police and citizens as the Airsoft guns often appear to be real firearms which forces officers to respond accordingly.

Lastly, I want to stress the importance of parents monitoring their children's behavior for signs of drug use. Many of your children are entering the age when social relationships take priority over their lives. The number one abused drug for young teens is prescription drugs. OxyContin, Ambien, Xanax and Adderall are some of the most common. Though these drugs can be purchased on the street, they primarily originate from mom and dad's unlocked bathroom cupboard. Please be vigilant and cognizant of the location and supply of your prescription meds.

Aside from marijuana, alcohol and tobacco, the next most abused drug by children 12-17 are inhalants. Abusing inhalants is another act driven by opportunity. Products which are often abused are keyboard duster, spray paint, gasoline, propane, air fresheners and felt tip markers. I encourage you to educate yourself on the warning signs/symptoms by visiting www.inhalant.org and www.abovetheinfluence.com.

I believe the majority of our youth will have an innocent, fun-loving summer. I believe a brief discussion with your children regarding expectations and responsibility, coupled with civil vigilance, will ensure a great summer for you and your children. As always, I am happy to speak to parents and students about any issues or concerns. If I don't know the answers to your questions, I can certainly point you in the right direction. Stay safe and have a great summer.

A member of the Farmington police department, Andrew Van Dorn is a school resource officer in Farmington.

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