LONG BEACH – Free ice cream just for wearing you helmet? It’s a real thing!
Numerous police departments throughout the county, and even the state, have been rewarding local kids with free ice cream as part of a widespread safety awareness program, including our own Long Beach Township Police.
Long Beach Township Police have been handing out Safe Kid Award coupons that entitle children under 17 to a free cup or cone of ice cream if they are caught wearing a helmet.
According to Chief Andrew Deely of the Long Beach Township Police, their program was started by (retired) Capt. Paul Vereb.
“[Vereb] was instrumental in getting local ice cream shops to participate and donate so generously to support this initiative. The program is continuing under Officer Megan Keller,” said Deely.
Long Beach Police are also partners with North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), hoping to not only raise awareness among bicyclists but also pedestrians and motorists, said Deely.
David Behrend, director of communications for the NJTPA, explained that these programs “are particularly well-suited to shore towns” because of the influx of people outside during the summer months.
NJTPA works with the Long Beach Police to put on this program as well as other safety programs, as part of their Street Smart NJ campaign to improve pedestrian safety. Behrend noted that Long Beach was one of the first shore communities to do something like this, beginning back in 2013.
The programs use positive reinforcement by rewarding good behavior to reinforce safety practices in kids (as well as adults).
“The intent was and continues to reward children who are operating their bicycles in a safe manner as well as wearing their helmets as required,” Deely explained. “The feedback is positive and I have received numerous calls and correspondence regarding the program, some parents even saying I wish my police department back home did something like this.”
Deely believes the program to have a positive impact on the local community, noting that the officers run out of cards by the end of the summer.
“The interaction with the children is also very positive, whether it’s a warning or a reward,” he added.
Other local departments such as Beachwood, Toms River, and Howell, among others, have also put on their own version of the program to encourage safety practices among the children in their community. The programs also increase opportunities for positive interaction with law enforcement.