The director of the Uniformed Police Directorate, Danijel Žibret, today presented at the General Police Directorate a new prevention project for children Officer Leon Advises as well as other prevention activities with the help of which the police are constantly trying to improve public safety.

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Danijel Žibret began by emphasising the importance of work in the "police prevention" field: "Every year the police carry out a large number of prevention activities. Our 'target' groups are above all young people, although some activities are also aimed at older people. The activities are chiefly designed to familiarise people with everyday dangers and ways to protect themselves - with the help of the police. In 2008 the police spent 80,000 euros on various prevention projects - mainly on prevention material of various types."

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He went on to highlight some of the prevention activities with which the public are already familiar:

  • A project aimed at children called Police Officer For A Day, a joint project involving the police and primary schools. Children visit police stations and get a closer look at police work and police equipment. The main purpose of the project is to teach children about the role of the police in society. For this project the police have provided 1,300 tee-shirts and gift bag sets.
  • The Safely to School project is aimed at first-year primary school children. Together with a police officer, children "study" the dangers that lurk on their way to school. This year we provided 35,000 colouring books and 2,000 Safely to School games for this project.
  • Since violence is also present in schools to varying degrees (Peer Violence, Protect Children from Violence), every year the police run a project called Be Brave and Tell. The police have prepared video materials designed for year 5 primary school pupils. Teachers conduct the lessons and police officers are on hand to provide advice. The project is about recognising different forms of violence and how to resist violence.
  • The police also dedicate special attention to older citizens. We have prepared a brochure entitled Don't Forget About Safety containing advice on how to avoid dangerous situations e.g. in public places, while using public transport, answering the door to strangers, etc. The police visit old people's homes and older citizens in general and via direct conversation offer them advice and give them the brochure. This year we have printed 10,000 brochures.

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New this year is the prevention project Officer Leon Advises. As explained by the director of the Uniformed Police Directorate Danijel Žibret, we at the General Police Directorate have decided to extend the project across the entire country in the 2008/09 school year following its excellent reception last year in the area of the Slovenj Gradec Police Directorate.

"The Officer Leon Advises project, which this year will be run throughout the country for the first time, has been prepared by the police in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and Sport. As part of our efforts for community work, it was prepared last year by the Slovenj Gradec Police Directorate. It teaches children about the dangers they can encounter in everyday life and gives them advice on how to protect themselves or prevent danger. Above all we hope in this way to encourage children to behave correctly, both when using the roads and elsewhere. Child safety is extremely important for every society. It is the task of parents or caregivers to teach children in good time about possible dangers in everyday life and about correct behaviour. Parents have the most important role in shaping the behaviour of their children," said Žibret, "but alongside parents and teachers, police officers are also concerned with their safety."

The project is aimed at year 5 primary school pupils enrolled in the nine-year primary school programme, which means that approximately 20,000 children will be able to take part. It will run from October 2008 to May 2009. The project is coordinated by the General Police Directorate and will be implemented by police directorates or police stations in collaboration with primary schools. The costs of the project are around 11,200 euros.

The "Officer Leon Advises" workbook is issued free to every year 5 primary school pupil.

With the help of this workbook we will introduce the topic of various dangers in an interesting way. The workbook contains educational stories and advice on how to behave in the presence of vandalism, various forms of violence, illegal drugs and pyrotechnics, advice on protection of property, road safety and advice on sports safety. The workbook thus presents in one place all the high-quality prevention activities that the police have carried out to date in primary schools and adds a number of new topics. They also draw on the experience and knowledge of police officers to offer help to children in real-life situations. The project will be adapted to the school curriculum and is expected to take up five classroom hours.

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Dušan Ferenčak, the head of the Uniformed Police Service of the Slovenj Gradec Police Directorate then spoke about the positive experience of implementing the Officer Leon Advises project in his area. The prevention project and the Officer Leon Advises workbook were in fact devised by the Slovenj Gradec Police Directorate at the beginning of 2007 and last year implemented on a trial basis at all primary schools in the Koroška region: "The project was extremely well received, both by children and teachers and by parents. We consider it to have fully achieved its purpose, something which is confirmed by the experiences of the project implementers and the results of the surveys conducted among parents, teachers and police officers. The opinion of pupils, the very high percentage of questionnaires completed by participants, and the excellent ratings given to the project, particularly by teachers and parents, are an additional encouragement to continue with the project in the future."

Ferenčak added that the project also aims to include parents, teachers and others who are close to children and can contribute to their education and safety. For this reason the project has been designed in such a way that parents can help their children do the exercises from the workbook at home and discuss the safety topics with them. At school, individual topics, grouped thematically, will be presented to the children during class time by a police officer - the police district chief - in the presence of and with the help of teachers. The parents of year 5 pupils will receive written information about the project before it starts and will be told about it at parents' meetings.

The concept of the workbook is based on various stories about children's experiences, which are then the basis for discussions with pupils. Each story is followed by a number of questions which the children try and answer together with parents, teachers and police officers. At the end of each topic is a section containing useful advice for children from Officer Leon.

The police district chiefs deal with topics from the workbooks in the presence of teachers (using pre-prepared material: videos, films, posters, etc.) in at least five sessions, presenting one thematic category each time, as follows:

  • Traffic (in September and October the following topics are covered: Police Officer Introduction, Safely to School, To School in the Morning, Safety Belts, Pedestrian Safety)
  • Fireworks (in November and December the following topics are covered: Fireworks, Consequences of Use, Vandalism, Consequences of Vandalism, Skiing Safety);
  • Violence (in January and February the following topics are covered: Peer Violence, Family Violence, Secrets, On the Way to School - Strangers, Strangers on the Internet, Pills);
  • Crime (in February and March the following topics are covered: Mine-Yours, Test Of Courage, Home Alone, Burglary, Mobile Phones, Bank Cards); and
  • Bicycle (in April and May the following topics are covered: Safe Cycling, Safe Bicycle, Description of a Bicycle, Slow Down, Scooters and Roller Skates, Swimming Pool Safety, Playing and Traffic, Cycling Proficiency Test).

When each category is completed a prize draw is held and prizes are distributed to individual pupils. During the last session pupils take their cycling proficiency test and at the end of the project police officers present all participants with a certificate.

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The aims of the Officer Leon Advises prevention project:

  • improving child safety in various areas (road use, general safety, crime)
  • giving children advice on protecting themselves and avoiding the various dangers to which they can be exposed
  • ensuring that children observe the rules in various areas
  • involving parents, children and teachers in finding solutions in real-life situations faced by children
  • giving all year 5 pupils the same opportunities to learn about prevention
  • building a partnership involving the police, children, parents, teachers and the local community
  • raising the profile of police district chiefs.